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Sawant Introduces Bill Banning Police Use of Chemical Weapons, Other ‘Crowd Control Weapons’, Including Chokeholds

Councilmember Kshama Sawant (District 3, Central Seattle), chair of the Council’s Sustainability and Renters Rights Committee, announced that on Monday at City Council’s 2 pm meeting, she will introduce legislation banning Seattle police from using all types of chemical weapons and other so-called “crowd control weapons.” She also will be introducing a second ordinance banning police from employing chokeholds.

Sawant joined the over ten thousand people who protested and marched in South Seattle yesterday, before heading to Capitol Hill in solidarity with a multiracial community of hundreds of young people who have been peacefully demanding to march on the streets night after night.

See Livestream video of last night’s police violence here.

“Seattle has seen daily protests since Saturday, and Seattle police have daily used stunning and indiscriminate violence against ordinary people and the protest movement that’s risen up in the wake of George Floyd’s murder at the hands of Minneapolis police,” Councilmember Sawant noted. “Seattle police are attacking peaceful protesters daily, from young children to the elderly with chemical weapons that are internationally banned in warfare. They have used chokeholds on protesters, including the same kind of chokehold that killed George Floyd.

“On Friday night, a mother and her child were pepper sprayed by the Seattle police – while they were sitting in their car. Saturday night was another night of police brutality against overwhelmingly peaceful protestors on Capitol Hill, where police aggressively attacked ordinary people with more tear gas, pepper spray, and blast balls, and arrests.

“And last night, I was part of the group of hundreds of activists protesting peacefully on Capitol Hill, at 11th and Pine. We were maced and gassed by Seattle police, with no provocation.

See Councilmember Sawant address the peaceful demonstration at this link, at 35 minute timestamp.

“The responsibility for this vicious targeting of these overwhelmingly peaceful protests in Seattle lies with the establishment and Mayor Jenny Durkan. I stand with thousands of community members, including many Democratic Party leaders, who have said ‘enough is enough. Mayor Jenny Durkan must go!’ ”

Sawant’s legislation would ban the police or other law enforcement agencies operating under mutual aid agreements in Seattle from using any form of chemical weapons, including tear gas, mace, and pepper spray. It also would ban other police weapons of crowd control, including rubber bullets, bean bags, blast balls, water cannons, and sonic/ultra-sonic weapons.

Both pieces of legislation call for the City to be held liable for fines and damages for anyone subjected to chokeholds or any of the banned weapons.

“Our movement is demanding that the City Council act immediately to take these weapons out of the hands of the police,” Sawant said.

“Because of the enormous pressure that the movement has placed on them, some in the political establishment are calling for a temporary ‘pause’ in the police use of tear gas. Some have even gone so far as to say these weapons would be acceptable after police get more training,” Sawant noted. “That argument is simply mind-boggling in its detachment from reality. As we’ve seen over the weekend, these are simply empty gestures by the political establishment, and in fact they have no intention of reining in police violence. That is why our movement is demanding that these weapons and chokeholds be banned, period, and never be brought back in our city under any circumstances.”

In addition to the legislation, Sawant will be advancing specific proposals in the coming days to #DefundPolice, and cut the bloated Seattle police budget by half to fund restorative justice, and for the Amazon Tax on big businesses to fund housing, jobs, and the Green New Deal to help strike a blow against racist gentrification, sponsored by Sawant and Councilmember Tammy J. Morales.

Sawant is hosting a public meeting on Tuesday night at 6PM at Cal Anderson Park to discuss building the movement’s next steps to win concrete victories to stop police violence and brutality, beginning with the weapons and chokehold bans.

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