Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA) on Monday called to “disarm” all police officers of “weapons of war” and demanded a nationwide ban on various nonlethal forms of protection, including tear gas.
Markey, who recently won his primary race in Massachusetts as he seeks reelection to the U.S. Senate, wrote, “Portland police routinely attack peaceful protestors with brute force. We must disarm these officers, and every other police department in America, of weapons of war,” adding he supports a nationwide ban on tear gas and other nonlethal tools police use to protect themselves and community members.
Portland police routinely attack peaceful protestors with brute force. We must disarm these officers, and every other police department in America, of weapons of war, and enact a nationwide ban on tear gas, rubber and plastic bullets, and bean bag rounds. https://t.co/PDZcjhmSLB
— Ed Markey (@SenMarkey) September 14, 2020
Markey’s statement follows more than three months of protests and unrest in Portland, as well as in several other U.S. cities, sparked by the death of George Floyd while in police custody in Minneapolis.
The protests have often devolved into violent and destructive riots driven by anti-police sentiment, with dozens of arrests made in Portland in just the past two weeks for felony rioting, felony assault, reckless endangerment, and more.
The Portland Police Bureau (PPB) released a statement September 10 confirming that individuals have said “they intend to kill or injure officers” and have “scrawled [threats to commit acts of violence] on police facilities and other property.”
In one instance, a man was lit on fire as a result of people throwing Molotov cocktails at police. Police used CS gas, a common form of tear gas, as a crowd dispersion tool in response to the Molotov cocktails.
In several instances, according to police, arsonists have attempted to burn down the PPB’s North Precinct facility while people were inside. Most recently, on September 7, a crowd started a fire outside of the precinct building, chanting, “Burn it down,” prompting police to make 15 arrests.
Markey’s call to disarm police of “weapons of war” and tear gas did not include any solutions for how police should manage the ongoing rioting or protect themselves as they are being attacked.
It did, however, include his proposed legislation called the No Tear Gas or Projectiles Act. Markey states in his proposal, cosponsored by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), that “our streets are not meant to be battlefields, and law enforcement shouldn’t be using weapons of war against protestors and other Americans.”
The progressive senator’s demands echo a recent directive from Mayor Ted Wheeler (D) that Portland police cease using CS gas. “During the last hundred days Portland, Multnomah County, and state police have all relied on CS gas where there is a threat to life safety,” Wheeler said in a video statement. “We need something different. We need it now.”
Oregon State Police described the mayor’s order as “reckless and short sighted.”
Portland police responded that it was dangerous, stating, “Banning the lawful use of CS will make it very difficult to address this kind of violence without resorting to much higher levels of physical force, with a correspondingly elevated risk of serious injury to members of the public and officers.”