In the wake of people citywide and across the country being tear gassed by police in the recent protests, lawmakers are looking to prevent this from happening again.
On Wednesday, Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez announced her intention to introduce a bill prohibiting federal, state and local law enforcement from using chemical weapons, including tear gas, in the course of policing activities.
Tear gas and other chemical weapons are banned in warfare under the Geneva Protocol. Medical professionals have found that tear gas and other so-called “non-lethal” weapons do in fact have negative long-term health effects and can even lead to death. There is also widespread agreement in the medical community that tear gas could contribute to the spread of COVID-19.
“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,” Ocasio-Cortez said in a statement. “It is a horror on top of a horror on top of a horror — and it must end. Banning tear gas is one of many steps we must take in this moment to fundamentally restructure the relationship between law enforcement and the communities they are supposed to protect and serve.”
The bill ensures law enforcement agencies do not possess any chemical weapons. All weapons under this act must be disposed of within one year of enactment. Local and state law enforcement funding from Byrne Justice Assistance Grants (JAG) program, the COPS Hiring program and the Bulletproof Vest Partnership (BVP) program would be conditioned on compliance with this law. The Department of Justice’s Inspector General would be charged with conducting annual audits on compliance.
AOC said that she is committed to supporting additional legislation to ban rubber bullets and other irritants, such as pepper spray. She also signed on to a bill led by Representative Justin Amash to end qualified immunity for police officers.
Additionally, she recently signed onto Representative Ayanna Pressley’s the People’s Justice Guarantee, which includes proposals to combat mass incarceration by expanding access to restorative justice, ending the cash-bail system, implementing minimum sentences, terminating solitary confinement and ending the death penalty.
Furthermore, the Congresswoman joined a resolution authored by Representatives Pressley, Omar, Bass and Lee condemning police brutality and racial profiling last week.