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Bill would ban tear gas on crowds

Published: Jul. 6, 2020 at 4:50 PM EDT
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LANSING, Mich. (WILX) - Tear gas cannisters were flying through downtown Lansing the night a protest over the death of George Floyd turned violent.

A state representative wants to make sure it doesn’t happen again by banning the use of tear gas against crowds.

Rep. Kara Hope of Holt introduced the bill after seeing images of protesters covered in thick clouds of smoke. Rep. Julie Brixie of Meridian Township signed on to the fellow Democratic lawmaker’s idea.

“I thought that was a really important first step to help us demilitarize our police departments,” said Brixie.

Supporters believe the substance can make COVID-19 symptoms worse.

“Tear gas irritates the eyes and the lungs and the throat,” Brixie said. “So people are rubbing their faces and coughing and that is really problematic and contributes to the spread of COVID-19.”

The CDC said riot control agents like tear gas can cause chest tightness and shortness of breath. One study shows a spike in respiratory illnesses in military recruits who were exposed to tear gas.

MSU Police Captain Doug Monette said tear gas is a last resort.

“No agency really wants to use chemical agents unless there’s a situation with life safety and concern,” said Monette.

During an interview with News 10′s David Andrews in June, Lansing Police Chief Daryl Green defended his department’s use of tear gas at a protest in May.

“We had to make a critical decision to use chemical munitions at that particular time because we had multiple fires and we had actual intelligence that someone or some people are trying to start fires down in the downtown,” said Green.

While the chemical is legal in all 50 states, several other cities, including Seattle, Pittsburgh and Washington, D.C. have restrictions on the use of tear gas.

The bill is currently in the House Judiciary Committee.

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