The ACLU of Pennsylvania filed a federal lawsuit on September 21 on behalf of Karen Piper, a bystander who suffered permanent hearing loss after Pittsburgh police deployed a Long Range Acoustic Device (LRAD) against protestors during the 2009 G-20 Summit. An LRAD emits harmful, pain-inducing sounds over long distances. Developed for use by the military, LRAD technology had never before been used against US civilians.
On September 24, 2009, Piper, then a visiting professor at Carnegie Mellon University, decided to observe G-20 protests in Pittsburgh's Lawrenceville neighborhood as research for her book on globalization issues and the responses of bodies like the G-20 to protest activity. She arrived at Arsenal Park around 10 a.m. and saw protestors calmly and peacefully milling around the area.
After the protest began, Piper walked on the sidewalk a short distance from the marching protesters, in the company of other curiosity seekers and journalists. When Piper became concerned about rapidly increasing police activity, she tried to leave the area. As she was walking away, police officers activated, suddenly and without warning, an LRAD a short distance away from her. It emitted a continuous piercing sound lasting several minutes.
Piper immediately suffered intense pain as mucus discharged from her ears. She became nauseous and dizzy and developed a severe headache. Since then, Piper has suffered from tinnitus (ringing of the ears), barotrauma, left ear pain and fluid drainage, dizziness, and nausea. She still suffers from permanent nerve damage.