Berkeley Councilmember Ben Bartlett turned a phrase that is spreading around the Internet when he said the “era of militarism is over”, after his City of Berkeley, Berkeley City Council voted to ban tear gas for good, and stop police from using pepper spray and smoke during George Floyd Black Lives Matter protests.
(And this space has to point out how Fox News’ Julia Musto showed her apparent couch-potato-conservative-crazy dislike for Black Lives Matter by writing about the tear gas ban without using the term that’s the other raison d’tre for the uprisings. And in case you’re wondering, Julia Musto only mentioned George Floyd, once, but then quickly added the usual blast about “anti-police” rhetoric.)
Last night the Berkeley City Council took up my proposal to prohibit police use of tear gas for crowd control during COVID.
The entire Council voted to ban the use of tear gas *permanently* Tear gas is banned in warfare and should not be used on our streets or in protests. pic.twitter.com/UDwE0NECns
— Jesse Arreguin #StayHomeBerkeley (@JesseArreguin) June 10, 2020
Berkeley’s Tear Gas Ban Was A Direct Slap At Oakland, Which Has Yet To Act
if you’re wondering what specific civic action happened that caused the City of Berkeley to act, it wasn’t anything done by Berkeley’s Finest: it was the Oakland Police Department’s use of tear gas in an effort to curb protest – one that looked like something out of Communist China. Take a look at this excerpt from the “action letter” from Berkeley’s Mayor Jesse Arruguin:
The use of tear gas (CS gas) and pepper spray are authorized less-than-lethal uses of force which can be deployed in crowd control situations under Berkeley Police Department policy, with specific conditions (See General Order U-2).
On June 1, 2020, Oakland police deployed tear gas to disperse protesters who failed to
move before a legally established curfew. The tear gas not only affected protestors by also bystanders in the immediate area. This has raised concerns over the police use of tear gas in protests, the chilling effect it has on people engaging in First Amendment activity, and the health impacts of tear gas during a public health emergency. In response to this incident, Oakland City Council President Rebecca Kaplan and Councilmembers Nikki Fortunato Bas and Sheng Thao issued a letter to Oakland City administrators requesting that OPD use of tear gas be immediately suspended and not used during the COVID-19 pandemic. Similarly, on June 5, 2020, Berkeley Councilmembers Harrison, Davila, Bartlett and Robinson made a similar request.
International, national, state and local health and governmental authorities are responding to an outbreak of respiratory disease caused by a novel coronavirus named “SARS-CoV-2.” and the disease it causes has been named “coronavirus disease 2019,” abbreviated COVID-19, (“COVID-19”). In response to this emergency, on March 3, 2020, the City Manager acting as the Director of Emergency Services declared a local State of Emergency based on COVID-19 (hereinafter referred to as “the State of Emergency”), which the City Council subsequently ratified on March 10, 2020. In addition, on March 4, 2020, the Governor declared a state of emergency in California and the President of the United States declared a national state of emergency on March 13, 2020 regarding the novel coronavirus and COVID-19.
During the COVID-19 state of emergency, there is a heightened risk of individuals contracting the virus if they are exposed to tear gas, pepper spray or smoke. This will put people’s safety and lives at risk. As a public health strategy, the deployment of tear gas, pepper spray and smoke must be suspended.
So, Oakland nails another episode of “Let’s Go And Attack Protestors” in the can, while Berkeley says “We’re tired of that TV show.” Or as Berkeley Councilmember Ben Bartlett said “the “era of militarism is over”.
Tell that to Oakland.
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