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Democratic state lawmakers demand indefinite ban on use of tear gas by police

Concern about health effects, including spread of COVID-19
Akron protest
Posted at 8:29 PM, Jun 09, 2020
and last updated 2020-06-09 20:29:56-04

AKRON, Ohio — State Representative Tavia Galonski (D-Akron) and some of her Democratic colleagues have sent a letter to Governor Mike DeWine, demanding an indefinite ban on the use of tear gas by police departments in Ohio.

While Galonski said this didn't happen in Ohio, she said she saw law enforcement elsewhere putting on riot gear and spraying tear gas.

"I’m a believer that tear gas should be reserved for wartime use and actually trying to bring back some sort of order," Galonski said.

She said she finds it "offensive" that tear gas was used or even considered against people trying to exercise their First Amendment rights and peacefully protesting.

The letter Galonski and other lawmakers sent to the governor outlines why they believe tear gas and other chemical agents should be banned. Galonski argues it has dangerous health effects in general and violates rights of protesters. She also said it could affect the spread of COVID-19.

The Columbus Medical Association told News 5's media partners at the Columbus Dispatch that tear gas used against protesters in Columbus and Cleveland could spread coronavirus. Medical experts there say the gas causes people to cough and potentially spread the virus.

"Of all occasions where we do not need to be using chemical applicants, certainly not in the middle of a pandemic where we know this is an airborne virus," Galonski. "The more bodily fluids that I express, the more likely that I can then infect other people."

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says tear gas can cause long-term health effects, including blindness, glaucoma or respiratory failure.

"I trust Ohioans to make good decisions about how they will protest, and I’ve noticed, even today, that people are very peaceful and they’re trying to get their point across," Galonski said. "They’re not animated and they’re certainly not invoking violence. I believe tear gas should be used if you need to prevent violence, and if you needed to prevent further violence and for no other reason."