Fires Set By Police Munitions

3 min readJun 4, 2023

During the 2020 protests, it seemed like cities were burning down everywhere. There were a few large structure fires in a few places, including a police station and an under-construction youth prison. But the primary city that people tend to think of as having been burnt to the ground is Portland.

In Portland, protests were held nightly for months, in part because a federal police force was brought in and militarized the Justice Center. It became a mutual siege, with the protesters in a park across the street. A large fence was set up around the building, and the cops would come out in formation every night to attack from behind it.

I watched this on camera, live. All night, every night, on multiple screens, for weeks. And I did see fires in Portland.

Some of them were set by protesters. At protests away from the JC, they would often light a dumpster to set the mood. But nobody talks about the main source of combustion in these encounters. Not even the hippies bring it up.

Nobody ever mentions that crowd control munitions catch fire.

Those cans of tear gas and those flashbangs that police fired volley after volley of into the dark are all flammable.

Here’s Seattle PD hitting a reporter with one.

They fired so many of these things that they ran out and had to dig up expired ones left over from the WTO riots. In residential areas, next to businesses, they unloaded hundreds of rounds, even when they couldn’t see for all the smoke.

We already know that the gas they were using flooded into homes. But nobody thinks about the cans themselves: they’re heavy, fast-moving metal objects that burst into flames when they’re activated.

Tragically, in July of 2022, we saw this illustrated far away from any protest. Police used flashbangs when they raided a house that was suspected to contain somebody they were chasing. Their grenades started a fire and burned the entire place down, killing a 14 year old child.

They have even caught themselves in the fires these things set. One night in Portland, at the Justice Center, they had retreated, in their armor, halfway into the building. They were firing their munitions from inside the entryway. And one of these cans hit the door, and bounced back into the Justice Center. They set the fire alarm off in their own building.

Obviously the fires are more serious. But that’s a lot of broken glass too.

I haven’t heard any estimates on the property damage that was discovered on these streets as the smoke cleared every morning. I do know the volume of munition canisters that were found. Hundreds in all sizes, every day: some as large as an Arizona tea, some like capsaicin-filled golf balls.

Imagine the amount of property destruction, imagine the insurance claims, if people had just been playing golf in the street every night. Imagine what a store owner would say during the day if people were throwing flaming cans of Raid at each other in front of their shop, let alone firing them out of guns. In a cloud of smoke, in the dark, in that volume, of course their munitions damaged buildings.

The reasons that nobody brings this up are complicated. Obviously activists or insurers would have an incentive to, if they’d thought of it.

It’s so easy to fall into a semantic dichotomy sometimes that it can obscure what’s happening right in front of you. Protesters were so caught up in the idea that police, by their nature, are tasked with hurting human beings in order to protect property, that they never noticed those flaming gas cans were being fired directly at the surrounding property too.

That’s why even now, you never hear about the commercial damage caused by police munitions during the 2020 protests.

Red state voters really feel like every major city burned down. Some are quick to correct them, to try and explain that cities were mostly fine. But never, even after those police in New Mexico burned down a house with a flashbang in front of the whole world, does anyone bring up the fires that did happen when police used local businesses for target practice.