Ousted Whitney Trustee Warren Kanders Reneges on Promise Not to Sell Tear Gas

June 06, 2022

Warren Kanders, who in 2019 resigned from his position as vice chair of the board of New York’s Whitney American Museum of Art over his ties to defense supplier Safariland, is still selling chemical weapons despite his promise to divest from them, The Intercept  reports. Kanders, who remains the chairman and CEO of Safariland, stepped down from the Whitney board in the wake of widespread calls in the art world for his departure. The outcry culminated in a scathing Artfroum.com essay written by Hannah Black, Ciarán Finlayson, and Tobi Haslett in which the authors wondered why participating artists had failed to boycott the Whitney Biennial given Kanders’s profiteering off the tear gas used against protesters at Standing Rock, demonstrators responding to the murders of Freddie Gray in Baltimore and Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, respectively; and those marching against austerity in Puerto Rico, whose numbers included children. A slew of artists subsequently withdrew their work from the Biennial and Kanders left the board. Nearly a year later, after its products were deployed against civilians protesting the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police, Safariland announced that it would sell off Defense Technology and Monadnock, the two companies responsible for making tear gas.

However, according to The Intercept, Kanders did not spin off Defense Technology but instead reorganized his holdings, with Defense Technology and Safariland both registered as belonging to Cadre Holdings, which Kanders has owned since 2012. Though Cadre Holdings does not mention Defense Technology on its website, it claimed in an SEC filing last year to count the chemical weapons manufacturer as among the twenty-three companies it owns. Cadre in its March 2022 annual shareholder report listed Defense Technology as a subsidiary, noting that the company used toxic compounds in its “crowd control products” and warning investors that “private parties may bring claims against us based on alleged adverse health impacts or property damage caused by our operations.” The Intercept additionally points out that Cadre, Safariland, and Defense Technology share the same Jacksonville, Florida, mailing address; the publication further notes that its calls to Defense Technology were met with a recorded greeting from Safariland.

Tear gas, despite its frequent use against protesters in the US and other locations around the globe, is prohibited on the battlefield under the Geneva Protocol of 1925, which bans chemical warfare.