Brutal police responses to the ongoing nationwide Black Lives Matter protests have put scrutiny on the “nonlethal” weaponry wielded by police, the AP reported.
The use of riot gear and military-style weapons and equipment escalates already-tense protest situations, and removes any possibility in protesters’ minds that officers might be empathetic, activists say. “If I went up to speak with a police officer and I’m covered in armor and holding a shield and a stick, don’t you think they would regard me as a threat?” Ron Moten, a longtime community organizer in Washington, D.C., told the AP.
“When we see riot gear, as Black people it takes us back 400 years,” he said. During recent weeks, injuries from police weapons supposedly designed to cause reduced harm, have inflicted permanent injuries to protesters and journalists. Multiple protesters were bloodied by police weapons over the weekend in Portland, including one protester shot in the back of the head.
Police weapons have caused eye damage or blindness to at least 20 people in the past month, injuries one doctor said rivaled those he saw treating shrapnel wounds in Iraq and Afghanistan. Cities around the country, some in response to court orders and lawsuits, have at least temporarily banned the use of tear gas, a chemical agent banned in warfare by international law.