NEW YORK — A bill was introduced Wednesday that would prohibit the use of chemical weapons, including tear case amid policing activities.
Democratic leaders, including Representatives Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), Mark Takano (D-CA) and Jesus “Chuy” Garcia (D-IL) presented the bill, arguing that tear gas and other alleged “non-lethal” weapons have caused negative long-term health effects and could even lead to death.
The bill comes amid nationwide protests following the death of George Floyd, a Black man who died while in police custody on Memorial Day. During several protests across the country, officers have used tear gas on protesters.
The bill, Prohibiting Law Enforcement Use of Chemical Weapons Act, would ensure agencies of law enforcement do not possess chemical weapons. Weapons that fall under the act must be disposed of within a year of enactment.
Leaders argued banning tear gas “is one of the many steps” that need to be taken to “fundamentally restructure the relationship between law enforcement and the communities they are supposed to protect and serve.”
“To stop us from protesting the death of a Black man who was suffocated by police, law enforcement is using a weapon that restricts our lungs — during a respiratory pandemic,” said Rep. Ocasio-Cortez in a statement. “It is a horror on top of a horror on top of a horror – and it must end.”
“There has been a disproportionate response by law enforcement to the peaceful protests occurring nationwide, often involving excessive force and the use of tear gas. We even saw its indiscriminate use against peaceful protesters outside of the White House to clear the way for Presidents Trump’s photo op. Despite medical professionals warning us about the harmful effects of tear gas, which are only made worse during a respiratory pandemic, law enforcement continues to use it. We need to get tear gas out of the hands of law enforcement and ban its use in the United States – this bill will do that,” Rep. Takano said.
“Despite its lethal potential, police deployed tear gas to aggressively scatter recent protests in Chicago and across the country. This was only the latest episode of a long history in which tear gas has been used against crowds speaking truth to power,” said Rep. Garcia.
Leaders said the medical community has had widespread agreement over the idea that tear gas could contribute to the spread of COVID-19, a pandemic that has killed over 400,000 deaths worldwide, with more than 112,000 in the United States, alone.