DEARBORN- "Plastic bullets are used to terrorize people whose only desire is freedom," said Irish civil rights activist Bemadette Devlin McAliskey during a recent rally. McAliskey was one of three international speakers who addressed over 1 00 people in the parking lot of U.A.W. Local 600. Speakers used the bed of a pickup truck as a makeshift podium to protest the use of plastic bullets in Ireland, South África and Palestine. The rally was scheduled to be held indoors but was forced outside after Dearbom pólice received a bomb threat against. the building. "This is a plastic bullet," said McAliskey, holding up a plastic-like tube. "It is four inches long, weighs about five ounces and has a diameter of one and one-half inches." With the initial velocity of over 160 miles per hour, shots to the chest and head are fatal. McAliskey described how impact on the face leaves crushed bone and cariilage, destroying the ey es. It is so dev astating that " when people in land see a policeman moving for his weapon, they turn their heads to shield their faces." The British military has been using plastic bullets against the demonstrating Northern Irish since 1973. Rubber bullets, which had been used previously, were slowly phased out by 1975 because of the increased accuracy of plastic bullets. Abdeen J abara, National President of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, argued that plastic bullets are as lethal as live ammunition, . perhaps even more so, because soldiers and pólice who may otherwise be hesitant to fire live ammunition into an unarmed crowd tend to use plastic bullets more readily. The types of plastic bullets used vary from country to country. Israeli soldiers are currently using two types which were introduced in August 1988 against Palestinians on the West Bank and Gaza strip. One type is a plastic bullet containing aluminum and bauxite. The other is a type of rubber ball fired in groups, 20 at a time, from a shell. Jabara told how the number of wounded and dead has risen dramatically with the introduction of plastic bullets in Israel. When Israeli soldiers were issued live rounds, they were told to shoot only in life-threatening situations," said Jabara. "Now Israeli soldiers are trigger happy. No longer do they have to be in a life-threatening situation; no longer do they have to aim for the legs." Today plastic bullets are still being used in Palestine, South África and Northern Ireland despite efforts to ban them. According to McAliskey, the European Parliament has condemned their use since 1 982; however, the motion was not binding on member govemments. The use of plastic bullets has also been condemned by Amnesty International. Jabara told the crowd there are ways to fight the continued use of plastic bullets. He suggested the development of a resource center for the dissemination of accurate information about the manufacture and distribution of these bullets. In the meantime activists will be touring the U.S. and carrying out more rallies. They hope all efforts will ultimately end in a ban.
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