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LRAD use at Parliament Protest confirmed, sponge rounds ‘incredibly dangerous’

Sponge Round news
Police file photo of Sponge round and launcher.

Documents obtained by the Otago Daily Times confirm police deployed the LRAD sound cannon at the Parliament Protest on 2 March.

The LRAD (Long Range Accoustic Device) is a device used by police departments around the world to broadcast public messages and to disperse crowds. Use of the device has been controversial, with a number of jurisdictions banning it.

The use of LRAD at parliament was the first confirmed deployment of the technology in New Zealand.

New Zealand police currently have 17 LRAD units. Two were installed at the protest – one on the roof of Parliament Building and the other at an undisclosed location on Aitken Street.

While LRAD has primarily been used as a ‘long-range communication device for targetted communication’, a police document also said they were capable of producing an ‘aversion tone.’ Such tones can reach levels of 160dB, and can cause permanent hearing loss or damage.

There is no mention in the ODT report whether police used the LRAD for ‘targetted communication’ or as an ‘aversion tone’.

The documents also confirmed police protocols for the use of pepper sprays on crowds were changed on 1 March, and that 104 ‘sponge rounds’ were fired by staff at protesters the following day. The term ‘sponge round’ is a misnomer, according to Gordon Campbell. Campbell also claimed the rounds were ‘neo-colonial’ being developed for use first during The Troubles in Northern Ireland, and deployed predominently in black communities against black citizens in the US since.

In 2020 photojournalist Linda Tirado successfullly sued the Minneapolis Police Department after being blinded in one eye by a sponge round.

Speaking to RNZ in 2020, Emilie Rākete, founder of lobby group People Against Prisons Aotearoa said sponge rounds ‘were incredibly dangerous.’

Rākete told RNZ:

“In my research on police violence … ‘sponge bullets’ is an incredibly misleading term.”

“The two most common forms are 40mm rubber-coated steel bullets – these were used for the pacification of Northern Ireland by the British Army – and, second of all, a lead buckshot which is fired out of a standard shotgun shell.

“Both of these kinds of weapons are incredibly dangerous. They destroy organs, crush bones and kill.

“In the last two weeks alone the American Association of Ophthalmologists – that’s eye surgeons – say that 14 people in the US have been blinded by exactly the kinds of weapons that Andrew Coster is proposing arming front-line police with in New Zealand. When we know that police institutionally discriminate against Māori and Pacific people, the idea of arming them with these is frankly completely out the gate.”

‘Sponge bullets’ were mooted for the first time by Police Commissioner Andrew Coster in 2020, the day after his plan for Armed Tactical Response Teams was panned.

Sponge rounds are known to have killed several Palestinian children when hit above the waist line at unsafe distances. Many have been blinded. Serious injuries include ruptured spleens, brain hemorrhages and broken collarbones.

Canberra Protest 2022

Accusations of police brutality through the use of ‘sonic’ or ‘radiation’ weapons against the massive Canberra protest earlier this year have not been confirmed. However, reports from those on the ground supported a suspicion some unknown weapon was being used on the day.

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  1. Police have been aggressive to Maori & Pacific youth. My family experienced it repeatedly. Problem: they were not of such stock but acquired their skin colour enhancement from their Channel Island family line,

    Can Police be trusted with any weapons after their infamous attcks on people at the peoples Parliamentary grounds.
    The streamed live video shows people being selected for brutal takedown and the full on attack.

    • Maori never gave up their soveriegity under the treaty. So they understand the loss of freedom and tyranny better. The so called maori leaders are well known for their “30 silver” betrayal. History of betrayal repeated many times and divide and rule won each time.


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