Philadelphia City Council passes ban on "less than lethal" force, like tear gas, against protesters

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Thursday, October 29, 2020
City Council passes ban on "less than lethal" force against protesters
Philadelphia City Council has passed a ban on police use of "less than lethal" force on protesters exercising their First Amendment rights.

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- Philadelphia City Council passed a ban Thursday on police use of "less than lethal" force on protesters and demonstrators stemming from the incidents back in the spring following the death of George Floyd.

The ban means law enforcement in Philadelphia is no longer permitted to use supplies like tear gas, pepper spray, and rubber bullets when people are exercising their First Amendment rights.

City Council pointed out that Philadelphia now becomes the largest city in the United States to pass such a ban.

"The ban passes at a time of demonstrations and unrest after the police shooting of Walter Wallace Jr., and days before an election where demonstrations are expected regardless of the result," City Council said in a press release.

Action News is awaiting word from Mayor Jim Kenney's office to see if he will sign the bill.

The use of tear gas on demonstrators marching on I-676 on June 1, days after Floyd's death, was a motivating factor behind the legislation sponsored by Councilmember Helen Gym.

SEE ALSO: Police fire tear gas on I-676 as Philadelphia protests continue

Philadelphia officials defend decision to use tear gas on crowd of protesters

Gym said having a law like this in place would help re-establish the trust between the public and law enforcement.

"We are answering the calls of our constituents. This is a moment where repairing trust between our residents, public officials, and police is essential. Residential neighborhoods are not warzones.

Demonstrators are not enemy combatants. This is a first step in working with our communities to build a new model for public safety that is driven by their needs and their vision for the future," Gym stated in the release.

Following the bill's approval by the City Council's Public Safety Committee last week, which sent the bill to the full council to vote, FOP Vice President Roosevelt Poplar said the whole point of "less than lethal" force for crowd control is to keep the public as safe as possible during a potentially dangerous situation.

"So, basically, you're taking away non-lethal munitions and you're leaving them with only one tool, and that's a deadly weapon tool, which is a gun," Poplar said.

SEE ALSO: Philadelphia protesters gassed, maced on I-676 taking legal action

Some protesters are taking legal action after a demonstration spilled onto I-676 in the heart of Philadelphia earlier this month, leading law enforcement to fire tear gas and use pepper spray in the middle of rush hour traffic.


The featured video in this report is from a previous story.