Oakland, CA: (June 3 , 2020) – Today, Oakland Council Members Nikki Bas, Rebecca Kaplan and Sheng Thao sent a joint letter to Mayor Schaaf, City Administrator Reiskin and Interim Police Chief Manheimer to urge the immediate halt of the use of tear gas for crowd control during the COVID-19 pandemic
“ Dear Mayor Schaaf, Administrator Reiskin and Interim Police Chief Manheimer,
We are writing to urge you to immediately halt the use of tear gas for crowd control during
the COVID-19 pandemic.
We are extremely concerned that using tear gas for crowd control during the COVID-19
pandemic will increase the spread of the coronavirus (a respiratory illness) placing countless
people at risk.
According to a June 2, 2020 KTVU article, infectious disease specialists are circulating an online
petition calling for police to stop using tear gas to disperse crowds and calling on police to use
“public health best practices” during demonstrations.
According to an article in today’s New York Times , “Along with the immediate pain that can
cause watering eyes and burning throats, tear gas may cause damage to people’s lungs and make
them more susceptible to getting a respiratory illness, according to studies on the risks of
exposure. The gas can also incite coughing, which can further spread the virus from an infected
person.” Researchers are concerned that the use of tear gas in crowds “might catalyze a new
wave of Covid-19.”
Data show that African Americans are disproportionately impacted by COVID-19 in Oakland
and Alameda County. In addition, “ many black Americans disproportionately have pre-existing
conditions like asthma that could make tear gas lethal. ”
Tear gas has been banned for use in warfare, but is legal for police to use in the U.S. Yet, experts
say it should be a weapon of last resort for crowd control and for addressing violent behavior of
specific individuals because it affects everyone in the area including peaceful protestors.
At yesterday’s City Council meeting, we heard from numerous people that peaceful protestors
have been impacted by the deployment of tear gas in crowds, including peaceful students on
Monday, June 1st near the Police Administration Building at approximately 7:40pm.
Residents around the Police Administration Building have also been impacted. In District 2, one
block away on Franklin Street, residents have complained about tear gas reaching the 14th floor
of their building and creeping into their apartment, as well as a tear gas canister landing on their
rooftop and catching grass on fire.
Another resident claimed it was sprayed on the side of his car, trapped in its air vents, and then
sprayed in his face when he turned on the engine the next day.
And another resident who has asthma and severe PTSD is so fearful of tear gas that they have
stopped opening their apartment windows.
The use of tear gas for crowd control adversely affects individuals in crowds of protestors as well
as residents who are not involved in protesting, and it can have serious effects on medically
vulnerable people and increase the spread of COVID-19.
OPD’s own training bulletin (V-F.2. July 26, 2006) states that “Breathing CS (gas) may create a
feeling of tightness in the chest, shortness of breath, coughing and/or sneezing.” These are
reactions that can spread COVID-19.
It’s critical for the public to immediately have information on OPD’s use of tear gas (CS gas),
and we request answers to these questions:
· When, why and how has OPD deployed tear gas during protests or other activities since
Friday, May 26, 2020? Who authorized its use?
· What restrictions on tear gas use is in place for OPD officers?
· How does OPD’s command of mutual aid law enforcement agencies ensure that those
agencies don’t deploy tear gas or other items in ways contrary to OPD practice?
· What are the public health best practices for crowd control and de-escalation during
Again, we urge OPD to immediately halt the use of tear gas for crowd control during the COVID-19 pandemic.”
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