The use of tear gas is illegal in war. But in the last few weeks, it’s been used so often to disperse protests in the US that many of you can probably recognize the smell at a distance, and know exactly what it looks like in a photo or video.
In Portland, Trump’s storm troopers fire it nightly into the “wall of Moms” peacefully protecting everyone’s children out protesting (the crowds have included babies, toddlers, and lots of young adults). In one memorable incident last week, the mayor of Portland, Ted Wheeler, was tear gassed outside the federal courthouse right in the middle of an interview.
Nor is this just a problem with federal agents, or only in Portland. Tear gas has been used more, and in more places, in the last few months than ever before in American history. This isn’t just a danger to protesters, it’s a danger to the right to protest. And it’s past time that we banned its use on our streets. Sign our petition to state and local leaders demanding they ban tear gas NOW.
Tear gas is not safe. It has been found to cause long-term health consequences, and intense burning pain in the eyes, throat, lungs, skin and mucous membranes. In some cases, it can cause an asthma attack — potentially leading to asphyxiation or death. When a canister detonates, it can also cause serious burn injuries. When they’re fired into crowds (which is usually the case) tear gas canisters have caused severe head injuries.
This would be enough of a problem in normal times, but now, use of tear gas in the midst of a respiratory pandemic threatens to worsen the coronavirus, along with racial disparities in its spread.
Doctors, nurses and disease experts have warned that dousing crowds with these kind of chemical agents will accelerate the spread of coronavirus. And in a season of mass demonstrations against police brutality and structural racism, the frequent use of these tactics raises fears that police are trying to worsen a pandemic that has already taken a disproportionate toll on Black and brown Americans.