Queens senator introduces new bill banning rubber bullets and tear gas to protect protesters

jessica ramos headshot
State Senator Jessica Ramos represents Queens District 13.
Photo courtesy of NYS Senator Ramos Office

Following weeks of local and national protests against police brutality, state Senator Jessica Ramos introduced a new bill to ban the use of rubber bullets and tear gas in New York.

The new bill, S.8516, would prevent police from using the weapons — which are currently categorized as “less lethal” but have been found to seriously harm people — against civilians in an effort to stop aggressive policing practices in the state, as hundreds of protesters have recently experienced.

Her ultimate goal is to ensure New Yorkers can safely and peacefully protest for the Black Lives Matter movement and any other future causes.

“Police officers have unleashed life-threatening tear gas and rubber bullets upon New Yorkers using their First Amendment right to protest police brutality against Black Americans in recent weeks,” said Ramos. “By cutting off their ability to senselessly attack crowds using chemical weapons, and other military equipment, we will encourage law enforcement to find other peaceful ways of doing their jobs while protecting our communities in times of disarray.”

In the last few weeks of protests, sparked by the murder of Minneapolis man George Floyd at the hands of four police officers, the nation has witnessed police using tear gas and rubber bullets on peaceful protesters, some of whom have suffered permanent injuries — an Indiana student and a Dallas protestor each lost an eye after being hit with a tear gas canister and a rubber bullet, respectively.

Health experts have said using rubber bullets is meant to be a last resort, and without an “uncontrollable level of violence,” the use of it is “unjustified,” according to a report by Vox.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention describes tear gas as “chemical compounds that temporarily make people unable to function by causing irritation to the eyes, mouth, throat, lungs and skin.”

While the police in the United States are allowed to use tear gas, the riot control agent was banned from warfare in 1997, after years of negotiations led nations to begin signing the United Nations’ Chemical Weapons Convention in 1993.

In addition to preventing the use of chemical compounds on civilians, Ramos’ bill would prevent the use of any kinetic energy munitions, including plastic, wax, wood or rubber bullets.

The bill would also require law enforcement to “destroy any chemical weapons currently in their possession.”

“As we await on New York City to defund the NYPD and for the state to repeal 50-A, it is crucial that we limit New York law enforcement’s ability to needlessly hurt New Yorkers who are making their voices heard,” said Ramos.

Ramos also has another bill, S.6435A, she’s fighting to pass during this legislative session, in order to protect civilian privacy by curtailing law enforcement’s use of drones. The bill would impose limitations on the use of drones for law enforcement purposes; prohibit the use of drones by law enforcement at concerts, protests, demonstrations, or other actions protected by the First Amendment; and require a search warrant prior to using a drone for law enforcement purposes.

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