Recent reports of peaceful protesters in San Francisco subjected to rubber bullets and inhumane tactics by on-site law enforcement have flooded social media. In a bid to stop a repeat of those scenes, three SF supervisors are set to introduce an act banning certain militant crowd control tools.
Known as the “The Right to Protest Safely Act,” the ordinance is being championed by SF Supervisors Matt Haney, Shamann Walton, and Hillary Ronen, each of them keen on preventing the militarization of crowd control with the use of chemical agents and “nonlethal” projectiles. This week’s otherwise calm, well-tempered demonstrations — barring last Saturday night’s looting and rioting — however, lead to multiple episodes of peaceful protesters experiencing excessive police force and presence.
Protestors marching for justice for #GeorgeFloyd being gassed or shot w dangerous projectiles is despicable. Residents must be able to demonstrate & speak out safely, not met by rubber bullets & gas— Matt Haney (@MattHaneySF) June 5, 2020
Today @shamannwalton @HillaryRonen & I announced the Right to Protest Safely Act
“It was shocking and unacceptable to see these peaceful protestors come face-to-face with officers armed with flexible baton rounds and chemical agent sprays,” District 6 Supervisor Matt Haney says in a press release, reflecting on the organized solidarity he’s witnessed across the city this past week. “Military weapons, chemical sprays, rubber bullets, pepper balls, and flexible baton rounds should have no place in our city’s response to peaceful demonstrations.”
Military weapons, chemical sprays, rubber bullets, pepper balls, & flexible baton rounds should have no place in our city’s response to peaceful demonstrators. We’ve seen across the country that these weapons can cause severe and permanent physical harm to individuals, even death— Matt Haney (@MattHaneySF) June 5, 2020
“We’ve seen across the country that these weapons can cause severe and permanent physical harm to individuals, even death,” Haney adds, perhaps nodding to a finding in a 2017 published academic study on the use of kinetic impact projectiles (KIPs) in crowd control: 3 percent of [people] hit by KIPs, which include rubber bullets and tear gas canisters, die from their injuries.
“We have a responsibility to support the First Amendment rights of our residents, “ Haney wanes. “They shouldn’t ever, now or in the future, be gassed by chemicals or shot by dangerous projectiles when they step outside to speak against injustice.”
Haney’s sentiments aren’t without like-company, either. District 10 Supervisor Shamann Walton went on to say in the same release that “if our residents do not feel safe peacefully protesting, then we are silencing them” and “we should be able to stand together against anti-black racism without the threat of police harming us for simply standing in a crowd as we demand justice”; Hillary Ronen, SF’s District 9 Supervisor, agrees, saying “there is no reason for using potentially deadly force against people speaking out against injustice.”
A number of media outlets — Chronicle, ABC7, SF Examiner, us included — reported on multiple accounts of demonstrators being injured during this week’s protests around the Bay Area. Though San Francisco has yet to do so, four Bay Area cities (Oakland, Walnut Creek, San Jose, and Santa Rosa) have used tear gas on otherwise peaceful protesters on various occasions over the past seven days.
The Right to Safely Protest Act will be introduced at an upcoming Board of Supervisors meeting and will also be heard at the Public Safety and Neighborhood Services Committee.
Image: Twitter @JimMcVeigh, pictured are pins collected from flashbangs and tear gas canisters from a youth-led march a few days ago in Oakland