Ban Tear Gas from US Streets
Win Without War Petition
(October 23, 2020) — The D.C. Metropolitan Police Department has reportedly been stockpiling long-range tear-gas projectiles and pepper spray since June, in “preparations for possible civil disturbance for the rest of the year.”
Let’s be clear: tear gas is a chemical weapon — it causes immediate, intense pain and longer term effects include chemical burns, blindness, and even death due to the resulting asphyxiation. That’s why the Chemical Weapons Convention and Geneva Protocol BANNED the use of tear gas in warfare. But these agreements have a critical, gaping exception: they don’t apply to domestic law enforcement.
If tear gas is too dangerous for the battlefield, there is NO justification for police using it against people exercising their constitutional right to assemble in our cities.
Many local officials agree. Recently Seattle, Portland, Berkeley, and Richmond have ALL made efforts to ban tear gas from their streets. These bans need to become the norm nationwide — and building support for a congressional bill to ban tear gas is how we make that happen.
This year we have witnessed an unprecedented wave of powerful protests demanding urgent and overdue social change: justice and dignity for Black lives. Yet, as protestors marched, sang, and danced in protest to end an epidemic of police brutality across the country, many were met with incredible violence.
Police unleashed rubber ball grenades, tear gas, and pepper spray against protestors in at least 100 cities across the country this summer. This included the streets in front of the White House, where protestors were tear-gassed to clear the way for a Trump photo op.
And just last week, Indigenous-led demonstrators reported tear gas and rubber bullets being used against them during a nonviolent protest against border wall construction at a Border Patrol checkpoint in Arizona.
This troubling trend is not letting up — and it’s especially egregious as we continue to struggle under the coronavirus pandemic. Top health experts have warned that using chemical agents like tear gas could help COVID spread because they irritate the lungs and make people cough.
Tear gas has no place being used against people, not now or in the future, not on the battlefield and not in our streets.
ACTION: Add your name if you agree: Police departments and law enforcement agents across the country must be barred from using chemical weapons on people exercising their right to protest. Tell Representative Lee: Support a ban on the use of tear gas in the United States!
While the Chemical Weapons Convention and Geneva Protocol have banned tear gas use during war, these agreements do not limit its usage by domestic law enforcement.
Please cosponsor Rep. Ocasio-Cortez’s legislation, H.R.7221, the Prohibiting Law Enforcement Use of Chemical Weapons Act, which would deny federal funding to police agencies that refuse to comply with a tear gas ban and dispose of tear gas. If tear gas is too dangerous for a battlefield, there is no justification for using it against people in our cities.
As anti-war activists, we know that U.S. use and sale of weapons of war — like tear gas — drives violence domestically and across the globe.
With your help we’ll build the political pressure for Congress to echo the calls we’re hearing from people and city councils across the country by banning tear gas in the United States — without exceptions.
Thank you for working for peace,
Annika, Amy, Abbey, and the Win Without War team
DC Police Buy $100,000 in Tear Gas in Preparation for Possible ‘Civil Disturbance’ in Coming Months
WASHINGTON (October 14, 2020) — Purchase orders show that just after 6:00 p.m. on June 1, at the very same hour that federal police were using tear gas canisters and tear gas grenades to clear protesters from Lafayette Square Park, the D.C. Metropolitan Police Department was buying the same types of canisters and grenades. MPD admitted to purchasing and receiving them in verbal and written statements to WUSA9.
American University’s Investigative Reporting Workshop got the purchase orders through a D.C. public records request. WUSA9 independently matched the dollar figures and the vendor, Atlantic Tactical, through records with D.C.’s Office of Contracts and Procurement.
The paperwork shows MPD purchased OC natural tear gas “Skat Shells” identical to what WUSA9 found federal police used on H & 17th Street. The order also contains CS artificial tear gas Skat Shells and “Spede-Heat” – both identical to containers we found at the scene during June’s protests.
Those particular munitions – fired by grenade launchers – caught our eye because they can affect more people at farther range than the pepper spray, gas canisters and flash-bang grenades we witnessed MPD use in May and June.
Also ordered: stinger ball grenades which explode into rubber pellets and CS gas at high speeds.
The purchase orders show a total of $130,000 paid to Atlantic Tactical for so-called “less lethal” munitions and “training kits” on June 1 and June 5.
The images and sounds captured during federal police’s clearing of Lafayette Square Park pressed the DC Council to take action.
It’s scheduled Thursday to debate renewing its July ban on MPD using “chemical irritants” on protesters. That ban would include the items MPD purchased.
Judiciary and Public Safety Committee Chair Charles Allen says tear gas must never be used on peaceful protesters, but adds he wants to hear more from MPD.
“Let’s say, for example, that we have a white supremacist rally that comes in and they turn violent and they start attacking people. What type of tools would we want MPD to be able to use to be able to respond to that? Those are questions that warrant a hearing,” Allen said.
DC Police released a statement to WUSA9 regarding the purchase orders: “The June purchase reflects both the increased occurrence of rioting so far this year as well as general preparations for possible civil disturbance for the rest of the year. The Department is committed to working to safeguard the city during riots by having available to officers less-lethal tools to deploy to disperse rioters.”
But there were questions WUSA9 asked that MPD did not answer: Did MPD ever have these specific tear gas types in their arsenal or is this a new type of purchase for them? What does MPD plan to do with more than one hundred thousand dollars of taxpayer-funded tear gas if the DC Council’s ban on using it holds?
Allen tells WUSA9 he plans on asking those questions to MPD during Thursday’s hearing.
MPD already faces a lawsuit from the ACLU and protesters over its role in pushing protesters off D.C. streets June 1. The department declined to comment on the lawsuit, other than saying it did not take part in the federal police actions that day.