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Statement on Berkeley City Council Resolution to Pepper Spray Protesters
by NLG-SF
Wednesday Sep 20th, 2017 7:53 PM
The one thing Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguin, the Berkeley Police Department and City Council got right at the Monday afternoon Council meeting was that violence has indeed come to the streets of Berkeley. But rather than using these critical times as an opportunity to have a larger conversation with Berkeley’s people of color, LGBTQIA, Jews, Muslims and other communities who are being targeted by white nationalists/neo-Nazis/white supremacists — the City has instead utilized this as an opportunity to target peaceful protests and repress resistance.
At the special City Council meeting which was announced on Friday, and held on Monday in the middle of the workday, the City Council — in alliance with Mayor Jesse Arreguin — lifted a ban on the use of pepper spray at protests. The Berkeley Police Department argued that pepper spray (OC) is a “less lethal” alternative to controlling “violence” during demonstrations.

Weapons that may arguably be a "less lethal" alternative in other situations do not function the same way in crowd control. At a demonstration or other heavily populated events, people move around quickly and in close proximity to each other. The level of unpredictable movement exponentially increases when chemical agents or violent Neo-Nazis are in the mix. Although the language of the measure was slightly modified to specify that OC only be used on “violent” individuals, it is highly likely that any weapon deployed in a volatile crowd, including "less lethal" munitions and OC spray, will hit innocent people who are not engaged in any aggression against officers or others.

The hand held aerosol OC used by law enforcement is highly concentrated and has documented risks to persons with respiratory or cardiac issues, vulnerability that will likely not be apparent to the officer. In addition to the OC itself, the other chemicals used in the pepper spray compound can have negative affects: a 2004 study cautioned that Inhalation of high doses of some of these chemicals can produce adverse cardiac, respiratory and neurologic effects, including arrhythmias and sudden death. The proposed policy change contains no guidelines or accountability for use of this dangerous weapon.

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The NLGSF Bay Area Chapter stood with thousands over the weekend of August 26th and Aug 27th to say no to hate in the Bay. And we will be there again this Saturday. Please join us as we continue to be a stronghold of resistance in the Bay Area.