Story at a glance
- The city of Berkeley has banned police from using tear gas permanently.
- Some health experts suggest it could exacerbate coronavirus spread and infection.
Following largely peaceful demonstrations across California, city governments in Northern California are taking steps to limit violent clashes between police and protesters. The move comes as demonstrations across the country and the world demand action against police brutality and systemic racism in the wake of George Floyd’s death while in police custody.
Berkeley, California, voted on Tuesday evening to ban police from using tear gas permanently. The ban was confirmed on Twitter by Berkeley Council member Rigel Robinson, who said it extends past the coronavirus pandemic — a step that initially grew from concerns that tear gas can facilitate the spread of viral particles, KTVU reports.
We just voted to prohibit the use of tear gas.— Rigel Robinson (@RigelRobinson) June 10, 2020
No “during the COVID-19 state of emergency.” No end-date. No sunset.
Police across the country have used devices like tear gas, rubber bullets, pepper spray and flash bangs on protesters. While police are legally allowed to use these in situations of “imminent threat,” videos have circulated documenting police using them during seemingly peaceful protests.
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Other police departments, such as that in Houston, Texas, have made changes such as banning the use of choke holds, a gesture reflecting Floyd’s death due to asphyxiation after an officer knelt on his neck for almost nine minutes.
Elsewhere in the Bay Area, three members of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, Hillary Ronen, Shamann Walton and Matt Haney, are set to introduce The Right to Protest Safely Act. The legislation would ban the use of military vehicles and equipment, as well as rubber bullets, flash bangs and other enforcement devices.
"Military weapons, chemical sprays, rubber bullets, pepper balls and flexible baton rounds should have no place in our city's response to peaceful demonstrations," Haney said.
Oakland’s city council is also reportedly discussing bans on tear gas.
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