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Toronto police call sonic cannons 'communication tools'

The Toronto Police have purchased four sonic cannons for the G20 summit, but promise they will be mostly used as a "communications tool."

The Long-Range Acoustic Devices (LRADs) can be used for sending "directions for evacuation" or "prerecorded messages," said Toronto Police spokeswoman Meaghan Gray in an interview last week. "The devices will be used as a communications tool."

But, she added, the LRAD "does have an alert function and if necessary to use that, we will."

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In terms of security weapons, LRADs are anathema to anti-capitalist protesters, dispensing prerecorded messages about "unlawful assembly" before dispersing crowds with targeted blasts of sonic fury. The decibel level approaches that of a bystander on a tarmac listening to a jet taking off.

Makers of the LRAD boast their technology can quickly disperse any mob without hurting anyone. The devices are produced by California-based LRAD Corp., which sells to police and military clients from around the globe.

Toronto Police have bought three handheld devices and one truck-mounted device with the help of federal funds.

Many YouTube videos document the use of the LRAD, including at last year's G20 summit in Pittsburgh. Protesters are working on countermeasures. Famous Canadian activist Jaggi Singh Tweeted on Monday that protesters will "defend ourselves with earplugs and flat solid objects" and referred compatriots to a question-and-answer site. A left-wing group, the Council of Canadians, yesterday announced they will dispense free ear plugs to Torontonians.

"Saying a sound cannon is a tool for communications is like saying water boarding isn't torture," said Mark Calzavara, a spokesman for the group, in an e-mail.

"These weapons affect a large area are used without accountability. The victims won't know who fired them and won't be able to prove they were targeted."

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