A comprehensive resource for safe and responsible laser use
Protests against increased Chinese control of Hong Kong began in March and April 2019. On June 21, lasers were aimed at police officers' eyes.
The use of lasers increased dramatically after the August 6 2019, arrest of 20-year-old Hong Kong Baptist University student union president Keith Fong for having 10 laser pointers. (According to the South China Morning Post, laser pointers are readily available for less than HK $100 [USD $13].) Fong claimed he purchased them for stargazing. Persons around him chanted "release him" but police arrested him for "possession of offensive weapons.”
Police said that laser pointers are not prohibited in Hong Kong, but if they are used in an attack or are intended for use in an attack, then they are considered offensive weapons. During an August 7 2019 press conference, Li Kwai-wah, Superintendent of the Organized Crime and Triad Bureau said “…many of our colleagues have been injured by these items. And sensors in some of our video cameras were damaged. So we strongly believe that these items, which are capable of hurting people and destroying things, are indeed ‘offensive weapons.’” Police then demonstrated how the blue beam from a pointer taken from Fong could cause black ink on a newspaper to begin smoking at a range of about 20 inches.
Fong’s arrest set off demonstrations and a rally to demand his release. Critics of the police arrest said Fong’s laser pointers were legal unless they were actually being used to attack. The protests were marked by widespread use of laser pointers. At one point, a protester held up a newspaper and dozens of lasers were shined on it, without affecting the paper. (This was to show how laser beams as used in demonstrations — at distances much longer than 20 inches and handheld onto uncooperative targets — would not have the same effect as holding a beam steady on an unmoving target at close range.)
Studio Incendo via Wikipedia, cc-by-2.0
Protesters also aimed their laser pointers at the dome of the Hong Kong Space Museum, creating a "laser show" that may have been a takeoff on the nightly "Symphony of Lights" show around Hong Kong's harbor.
Protesters at the Hong Kong Science Museum. Studio Incendo via Wikipedia, cc-by-2.0
Hong Kong Symphony of Lights laser show, presented nightly at 8 pm by the Hong Kong Tourism Board.
According to Wikipedia, during the laser pointer protest "some chanted slogans like 'laser pointer revolution' and joked 'Is the building on fire yet?' They hoped to show support to Fong and voice condemnation of his arrest by police, and to show that laser pointers are neither offensive weapons nor effective enough to cause a fire." A writer tweeted that the mood was festive: "This is the joyous, comedic side of [the protests] I’ve been missing amid the miasma of tear gas. Tonight was something we all needed: no tears, no blood, just laughter, song, and dance.”
Fong was released on August 8 2019, after being detained for two days.
Use of laser pointers continued in subsequent protests. For example, on August 14, lasers were aimed at a police station in the Sham Shui Po area of Kowloon. Police responded by firing tear gas to disperse the group.
On August 13, during demonstrations that closed Hong Kong airport, a person was beaten by protesters. According to Global Times, "the rioters began assaulting him by cuffing his hands behind his back, splashing water on his head and pointing laser beams into his face. He was denied medical help for hours until being rescued at around 10:40pm by Hong Kong police."
For more photos and information, see the page "Laser use during protests"
From Vice News (Aug. 8 story about "All-Night Laser Party"), South China Morning Post (Aug. 7 story, "Hongkongers rally to demand release of student arrested over possession of laser pens"; Aug. 8 story, "Laser pointer as 'weapon', explained"), CBC News (Aug. 11 story, "Hong Kong protesters use laser pointers to deter police, scramble facial recognition"), Infosurhoy (Aug. 13 story, "Hong Kong protesters gather for 'laser show' rally"), Washington Post (Aug. 14 story, "After airport mayhem, Hong Kong protesters face tipping point in battle for hearts and minds"), Global Times (Aug. 14 story, "Netizens furious over rioters' assault of mainland passenger at HK airport"), Wikipedia article on "2019 Hong Kong anti-extradition bill protests" accessed August 14 2019.
The protests marked the 44th anniversary of a 1973 student uprising against the military dictatorship.
Reuters photo from Telesur
The attacks happened at least three times on different routes in the West Bank.
An earlier report, from November 5 2014, describes an attack:
The [Jewish] driver reports that an Arab motorist came up next to his car, and used a laser to try and blind him and cause him to lose control of the vehicle.
"He came up next to me and aimed the laser at my face for several long seconds," the driver told Arutz Sheva.
"He tried to divert my view from the road so that I would crash. By a miracle I managed to escape...it's clear that he tried to kill me," reported the driver.
From the Algemeiner (2015) and Arutz Sheva
On July 9 in Philadelphia, CBSPhilly reported that a person was arrested for aiming a laser at a police helicopter after the protest. WHYY Newsworks said that a man was “briefly detained by officers after he used a powerful flashlight to point at the helicopter overhead. Because no illegal laser-pointers were used, he was sent away with a citation for disorderly conduct….” It is not known if these two reports referred to the same incident.
A Google search as of July 11 did not turn up any additional instances where lasers were used in or around protests.
A France 24 reporter said “dozens” of demonstrators in a crowd of 10,000 were aiming lasers at windows in the presidential palace, as part of efforts to “make sure Morsi notices” the protesters.
According to Times Live, in one demonstration three persons were shot dead and 350 others were wounded. There were no reports of injuries due to the laser pointer attacks.
A separate report in Bikyamasr.com about November 2011 demonstrations recounted accusations that Egyptian army snipers were aiming green lasers at Tahir Square demonstrators. The website confirmed that green lasers were present, but “as of [this] writing” could not confirm the snipers.
From Times Live, France 24, and Bikyamasr.com
The 5-hour confrontation began the evening of March 17 2012. St. Patrick’s Day parties “spilled into the street” in an area near Fanshawe College. The crowd grew to about 1,000 people. A brush fire was started, and a CTV news truck was set on fire. To slow fire crews, some persons threw beer bottles, bricks, wooden planks, tires, rim and other debris. In addition, said London’s police chief, “members of the crowd used laser pointers aimed at our officers’ eyes to try to disrupt our response.” A spectator said that the crowd, made up primarily of students, “wanted to egg on the police.”
A person aims a laser during the London, Ontario riot. From a photo gallery at The Star.
From the Toronto Sun. This is possibly the same laser beam; note glow from fire to the left, behind the officers.
The full extent of the laser misuse is not known. While the police chief indicated there were multiple lasers involved, the National Post said “One rioter attempted to blind the officers with a high-powered green laser.” Media reviewed by LaserPointerSafety.com found a single laser being used in each photo or video. Although some bystanders and police suffered minor injuries from thrown objects during the rioting, there were no reports of laser-caused eye effects or injuries. Eleven persons were arrested at the scene; charges included assaulting police. It is not known if any laser assault charges were brought.
In the video above, green laser light can be seen on a student, beginning at about 1:48. At 1:52, a single beam is shown being waved around at approximate head level. From 1:59 to 2:05, the beam is rapidly scanned towards stationary police officers who are monitoring the crowd. The beam in the video appears to come from the same person or area as shown in the photos above.
Similar riots occurred in the same area of Fleming Drive in 2007 and 2009, blamed on a high concentration of alcohol-fueled Fanshawe students. The 2012 riot is expected to cost London $100,000 in manpower and repair costs.
From CBC News, Globe and Mail, Toronto Sun, The Star, and the National Post. Thanks to Mathieu Gauthier for helping bring this to our attention.
UPDATED, April 20 2012: Thirty-eight people are facing a total of 85 charges in the incident, thus far. Brian Nuccitelli, 18, faces three charges including two relating to misuse of a laser pointer: “possessing a weapon dangerous to public peace” and “assaulting a police officer with a weapon”. Police said the pointer was aimed at officers’ faces. They said “one officer was injured and continues to receive medical attention as the result of the laser being directed at his eyes.” In addition to Nuccitelli, police are also looking for another person who aimed a laser at officers. From lfpress.com
Two separate lasers are being used, possibly held by the same person. One beam is aimed at the row of riot police at lower left, the other’s target is out of the camera frame. A more detailed version can be seen at the Toledo Blade; click on the small photo to see it larger.
The Reuters story described burning buildings, smoke plumes, tear gas, hurled stones, petrol bombs and stun grenades. Fourteen protesters and eight policemen were injured, and more than 50 protesters were treated for breathing problems due to tear gas. The story did not mention laser pointers, so it is unknown the extent of their use, what effect they may have had on the situation, and whether any persons were injured or sought treatment.
A photo from the Associated Press was published February 20, showing green laser light directly in the eyes of a riot policeman. The accompanying AP story briefly discussed demonstrations, and did not mention laser pointer use.
Reuters story as published in the Otago Daily Times; AP story as published in the Toledo Blade. Previous LaserPointerSafety.com news items about laser use during riots, including protests in Greece, are listed here.
A view of the crowd (AP via Yahoo News)
Laser pointers were aimed at the police (DPA via Spiegel)
Green and red pointers were also aimed at the Parliament building, where the dots from red pointers spelled the Greek word for “thieves.” (DPA via Spiegel)
A full-size version of this photo is available at the Daily Mail link below.
From the Daily Mail
From The Daily Mail online. Caution: graphic photograph of the dead protester.
Commentary from LaserPointerSafety.com: The soldier(s) most likely fired either due to the laser pointer provocation, or due to fearing that a weapon with a laser gunsight was being used. The laser pointer light could not harm the troops except possibly at close range if shone into the eyes. Of course, in a protest/street battle situation, soldiers are not going to know or care about the eye safety characteristics of laser pointers.
This is reminiscent of a 2005 case in Florida, where a man aimed a laser pointer at deputies and was shot and killed. It is unfortunate but understandable that those with weapons who are having a laser aimed at them may “shoot first and ask questions later.”