Philadelphia City Council passes bill banning use of tear gas, rubber bullets and pepper spray during protests

Philadelphia City Council passed a bill on October 29 banning police use of tear gas, rubber bullets, and pepper spray during protests or other First Amendment protected activities. In this photo, police deploy tear gas to disperse a crowd during a protest in Philadelphia on May 31 over the death of George Floyd.

Philadelphia City Council passed a bill Thursday banning police use of tear gas, rubber bullets, and pepper spray during protests or other First Amendment protected activities.

The bill passed 14-3 Thursday, and came in response to police use of such nonlethal devices against protesters in May and June in the days following the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

The bill also follows days of intense protests, looting and attacks on police in Philadelphia following the death of Walter Wallace Jr.

"I have been in plenty of demonstrations over two decades of organizing that did not result in the kind of violence and chaos we witnessed in May and June of 2020," said Councilmember At-Large Helen Gym, the bill's prime sponsor.

The most recent time the Philadelphia Police Department used such devices was back in 2000 during protests at the Republican National Convention, according to Gym.

However, a Philadelphia officer was charged in July in connection with the pepper spraying of three protesters without provocation, according to the Philadelphia District Attorney's Office.

"This bill does not unilaterally remove less lethal devices such as tear gas, rubber bullets, pepper spray, or the like from the police department's arsenal," Gym said. "It clearly states that they may not be used against any individual engaged in First Amendment protected activities."

The protests in May and June "undid years of collaboration and work," Gym said.

"This bill is the first step towards reaffirming that public protest is not at odds with public safety, and responses to public protests should not compromise public safety, plain and simple."

Mike Dunn, a spokesman for Mayor Jim Kenney, said in a statement to CNN that the mayor supports the intent of the bill, which attempts to codify existing police department policy.

CNN has reached out to the Philadelphia Police Department for further comment on its existing policies on less lethal devices.

Support Local Journalism

Now, more than ever, the world needs trustworthy reporting—but good journalism isn’t free. Please support us by subscribing or making a contribution today.

(0) comments

Welcome to the discussion.

Please log in, or sign up for a new, free account to read or post comments.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.