Portland mayor bans police from using tear gas at protests
Portland, Ore., Mayor Ted Wheeler (D) on Thursday ordered the city’s police to stop using tear gas for crowd control in a policy change he said is “effective immediately.”
“During the last hundred days, Portland, Multnomah County and State Police have all relied on CS gas where there is a threat to life safety,” Wheeler said in a video accompanying a press release. “We need something different. We need it now.”
CS gas is a chlorine-containing compound that serves as one of the most common forms of tear gas.
Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler, who also serves as police commissioner, has released a video saying he has ordered police officers to stop using tear gas for crowd control. pic.twitter.com/UM8xVAyD1x
— Mike Baker (@ByMikeBaker) September 10, 2020
The announcement comes after months of criticism over police use of tear gas to disperse crowds at Black Lives Matter protests following the killings of Blacks by police, including George Floyd and Breonna Taylor.
Wheeler said in his statement that the policy change was made with a goal to “reduce the violence” in Portland.
“We all want change,” Wheeler explained. “We all have the opportunity and obligation to create change. We all want to focus on the fundamental issue at hand – justice for Black people and all people of color.”
“I commend the work that the Oregon State Legislature and Joint Committee on Transparent Policing and Use of Force Reform have done to date to convene experts to evaluate the use of gas and what safer alternatives may exist that prevent the need for greater force,” the mayor added. “I commit the City of Portland to full participation in these reforms and encourage the Legislature to take up this issue as soon as possible.”
Wheeler went on to say that regardless of this change, those who engage in “criminal acts” at protests will be arrested and held accountable by the justice system.
The policy shift follows more than 100 days of demonstrations by protestors calling for racial justice and an end to police brutality. Portland’s protestors have repeatedly clashed with police, with officers claiming some demonstrators threw firebombs.
Wheeler has continued to clash with President Trump over proper responses to these protests. In a letter last month, Wheeler wrote that the deployment of federal officers to Portland had exacerbated the situation. “Your offer to repeat that disaster is a cynical attempt to stoke fear and distract us from the real work of our city,” he wrote. “Stay away, please.”
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