Band The Use of Chemical Weapons (Tear Gas) in Atlanta

Band The Use of Chemical Weapons (Tear Gas) in Atlanta

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Maria Barry started this petition to Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms and

The Atlanta Police Department and the National Guard have been using Tear Gas on protestors steadily for the past several weeks. Tear Gas has been deemed a Chemical Weapon by the 1925 Geneva Convention and the 1993 Chemical Weapon Conventions and its use has been banned in wartime. Tear gas has been proven dangerous enough that we are not willing to use it on our own enemies. Doctors have come forward in droves to denounce the use of tear gas as it is potentially deadly in the best of times and even more so during COVID. Yet our own tax dollars are paying for the use of this Chemical Weapon on our own citizens. We have already determined that APD cannot practice restraint with the use of force. We need to ban the use of the Chemical Weapon commonly referred to as Tear Gas in our city.  

Read on for details about Tear Gas, videos of its use in Atlanta, and the reasons behind the growing movement to ban the use of Tear Gas against citizens as it has been banned in war. 

What is Tear Gas and why is it so dangerous? 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention defines tear gas, or riot control agents, as “chemical compounds that temporarily make people unable to function by causing irritation to the eyes, mouth, throat, lungs, and skin.” The effects of tear gas are usually temporary but those who are exposed to Tear Gas at close proximity or in a closed space can experience long-term effects, such as blindness, glaucoma, or respiratory failure. In some cases, it can cause an asthma attack or swelling in the area that could potentially lead to asphyxiation or death. The canisters that contain Tear Gas are shot indiscriminately into crowds leading to injury from blunt force or burning.

According to the CDC the two most common chemical weapons refered to hereafter as Tear Gas are chloroacetophenone (CN) and chlorobenzylidenemalononitrile (CS). Despite its name, Tear Gas actually comes in a powdery solid form. The agents CN and CS are deployed as Tear Gas when the pressurized powder is mixed into a liquid formulation that is then released into the air as droplets or particles.

Dr Robert Glatter described the effects of Tear Gas to USA Today explaining that tear gas not only irritates cells, but also activates pain receptors, which leads to intense burning pain in the eyes, throat, lungs, skin and mucous membranes. Tear Gas can also cause exaggerated muscle cramping in the eye and sensitivity to light that leads to eye closure. Other effects of tear gas include a difficulty in swallowing, drooling, and severe burning in the mouth. 

The use of tear gas during the COVID pandemic is even more troubling and makes the weapon that much more dangerous not only to protestors but to their families and coworkers. COVID is highly contagious so coughing and drooling will only hasten its spread. Even people wearing masks tear them off in an effort to breathe. Studies also show that Tear Gas can also make you more susceptible to illness in the days after exposure. In research conducted by the U.S. Army, examiners looked at the impacts of exposure to Tear Gas on thousands of Army recruits. The study conducted in the summer of 2012 found that the personnel in a basic training cohort had a substantially higher risk of being found to have an acute respiratory illness in the days after exposure than the days before and this is on healthy young military recruits. Imagine the effect on a crowd of protestors of various ages and health conditions. 

Clearly the effects of Tear Gas can hasten the spread of COVID while also making those exposed more susceptible to future illness. However, citizens who are out protesting that may already be infected with COVID are at increased risk as they may not survive a further attack on their respiratory system.

COVID has disproportionally effected people of color in America so it is essential to  consider the message being sent by using Tear Gas during COVID in a Black city at a Black Lives Matter protest. 

Is Tear Gas really a Chemical Weapon banned in warfare?

The 1925 Geneva Protocol categorized tear gas as a chemical warfare agent and banned its use in war shortly after World War I. The protocol was signed at a conference held in Geneva and took effect on Feb. 8, 1928, according to the United Nations website.  It banned "the use in war of asphyxiating, poisonous or other gases, and of all analogous liquids, materials or devices."  In 1993 the U.N.'s Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) outlawed the use of riot control agents in warfare. Through these two measures Tear Gas was explicitly banned as a weapon of war. 

The US still reserves the right to use the weapon as a law enforcement tactic against its own people or against "rioting prisoners of war." However cities across the US have made moves to limit or ban its use in recent weeks! Portland, Denver, Dallas, and Seattle have all temporarily suspended the use of Tear Gas and countless other cities are working towards a suspension or outright ban. Atlanta is next! 

What has the use of Tear Gas against protestors in Atlanta looked like?

Tear Gas has been used recklessly on protestors in Atlanta. Often Tear Gas has been used immediately in the minutes after curfew takes effect even with no escalation on the part of protestors. Tear Gas has been used when protestors are trapped and cannot safety flee the area, when children are present, and in residential areas. Tear Gas has been used on crowd consisting of both vehicles and pedestrians leading to a potentially dangerous situation as folks scatter.

“The use of escalated force by law enforcement, all that serves to do is increase violence, increase injuries,” said Jennifer Cobbina, professor at the Michigan State University School of Criminal Justice, who studies race-related protests. “The primary mission of a police officer is to keep the peace and to protect and serve.”

Tear Gas is indiscriminate effecting all those in the area of its use including children, onlookers, people inside their homes, not to mention protestors both peaceful and "violent" alike. 

Jamil Dakwar, the director of the A.C.L.U.’s Human Rights Program, said tear gas had become an overused tactic that could actually increase the volatility of a situation. He said the weapons that were so indiscriminate should not be used for dispersing people or in protests. Mr. Dakwar said the gas was so indiscriminate that he also worried about the health effects on police officers.

After the killing of Rayshard Brooks and the protests around Univerity Ave, Atlanta leaders of the Georgia NAACP and JUST Georgia came forward to condemn the use of tear gas and other tactics against protesters who, they said, were exercising their First Amendment rights. Tiffany Roberts, a leader of JUST Georgia, said children were in attendance. “For there to be such a cavalier utilization of these types of weapons against community members is an escalation of violence that is unnecessary,” Robert said.

We need an outright ban of the use of Tear Gas on citizens in Atlanta!

VIDEOS OF TEAR GAS USED IN ATL

https://twitter.com/Georgia_NAACP/status/1272023868656496640- tear gas launched into crowd of pedestrians and vehicles, into vehicle with child inside. Incredibly dangerous situation

https://twitter.com/Friskyotter11/status/1270554724673208329 - police shoot peaceful protestors with tear gas an hour before curfew 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k8SPTkmEp2Q - multiple tear gas canisters land at the feet of a reporter live on air in the minutes after curfew takes effect 

https://twitter.com/Upchurc54601511/status/1272051128906256385 - apd chokes on their own tear gas even with gas masks

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GDcpM8btzXw - media prevented from reporting on the front line because of tear gas. Reporter witnesses people choking and vomiting from tear gas. 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FfVELyWktWA - reported assisted by crowd after being tear gassed

https://twitter.com/CalebLl237/status/1266544176381988870

https://twitter.com/PictureMane/status/1272016128785682433 

SOURCES

https://sites.fas.harvard.edu/~hsp/1925.html

https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/06/16/us/george-floyd-protests-police-tear-gas.html

https://www.cnn.com/2020/06/08/us/military-tear-gas-protesters-trnd/index.html

https://emergency.cdc.gov/agent/riotcontrol/factsheet.asp

https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/factcheck/2020/06/06/fact-check-its-true-tear-gas-chemical-weapon-banned-war/3156448001/

https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/06/16/us/george-floyd-protests-police-tear-gas.html

https://www.nytimes.com/2020/06/03/us/tear-gas-risks-protests-coronavirus.html

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