Nothing disperses a crowd like a shot of chili pepper to the eye. Pepper spray—scientifically known as oleoresin capsicum spray—is banned in war but has made its presence known during the Occupy Wall Street protests as one of the most-used methods of crowd control. Its status as a less-than-lethal weapon gives police the right to use pepper spray as a tactic to tame rowdy protesters, but are they using it properly? A number of incidents have called attention to the liberal usage of the spray against protesters appearing both defenseless and peaceful. But a quick burst of the orange is enough to bring even the hardiest protester to his or her knees: the active ingredient, capsaicin, inflames eyes, penetrates skin, and irritates mucous membranes. And the symptoms can last for days. Here, TIME looks at the prevalence of pepper spray in recent protests.
Nick Carbone is a reporter at TIME. Find him on Twitter at @nickcarbone.