Ohio Democrats asked Gov. Mike DeWine to indefinitely ban the use of tear gas by all county, municipal, and township police departments in a letter sent last week.
According to the letter, law enforcement agencies across Ohio used tear gas, pepper spray, and mace on peaceful protesters during recent demonstrations.
“We are extremely concerned about the use of tear gas and other chemical agents, which are banned under the Geneva Protocol, on the general population and the dangerous impact these agents may have on public health. We thereby urge you to immediately end the use of tear gas on the citizens of Ohio and prohibit the use of tear gas by all county, municipal and township police departments indefinitely,” states the letter, which was signed by 22 House Democrats.
The letter argues that the use of tear gas violates civil and human rights, has dangerous health effects, and could exacerbate the spread of COVID-19.
“We have witnessed the use of tear gas by law enforcement to be excessive, indiscriminate, and in violation of civil and human rights. The use of tear gas is not only irresponsible, it is un-American. The unjustified use of a dangerous chemical weapon on protesters raises serious human rights concerns under international law,” the letter continues.
It notes that tear gas and other chemical agents can cause uncontrollable eye-watering, nasal and sinus discharge, coughing, and vomiting – all of which could increase the spread of “water droplets, the main way in which COVID-19 spreads.”
State Rep. Janine Boyd (D-Cleveland Height), the ranking Democrat on the House Health Committee, said peaceful protesters have been “subjected to militant police violence via rubber bullets, baton beatings, and tear gassing.”
“This isn’t the 1960s or a war-torn country. This is 2020 in the United States of America. This is Ohio,” she said in a statement. “I urge the governor to consider who we are as a state, and to immediately prohibit the use of tear gas by all county, municipal and township police departments.”
Gov. DeWine said he has directed the Collaborative Community-Police Advisory Board to examine “best practices” for law enforcement interaction with protesters. He said the board will determine “when tactics involving tear gas, pepper spray, and non-lethal projectiles are necessary and when these tactics should be considered excessive, and how to better protect members of the media from injury.”
“When protests morph from peaceful to violent, law enforcement must be empowered to act, but our peaceful demonstrators must also feel safe when asserting their First Amendment rights,” the governor said in a press release. “A statewide standard for law enforcement will be beneficial to help standardize Ohio’s response to large, ongoing protests in the future.”
– – –