For Portland Police, Indiscriminate Use of Tear Gas During Protests Is Unavoidable

For Portland Police, Indiscriminate Use of Tear Gas During Protests Is Unavoidable

Night after night, Portlanders participating in demonstrations against law enforcement have been met with stinging clouds of tear gas. This lingering gas forces people to run blindly down city streets, pulling off their face mask to wipe tears and snot from their face, bending the rules of the COVID-19 pandemic to relieve pain. More often than not, these people have not committed any crime.

According to the Portland Police Bureau (PPB), this is the safest way to stop criminal acts being committed by a few individuals in the crowd.

PPB Deputy Chief Chris Davis explained officers’ reliance on tear gas, also known as CS gas, at a Wednesday press conference where he detailed PPB’s response to violence taking place during that past 40 days of protests.

“We don’t want to use CS gas at all. I don’t like it,” said Davis. But, he explained, if members of a crowd are lighting fires near government buildings or throwing objects that put others’ lives at risk—and peaceful protesters refuse to leave the area—officers don’t see another option.

“It’s a matter of us cooperating with each other,” said Davis. “It’s to be able to have people go out and express first amendment rights without coming to the point of risk of… an officer or a community member getting seriously injured, or killed. If it’s the choice between using CS gas and a fatality….Well, I’d prefer that we weren’t put in the position to make that choice.”

But is it a necessary choice?

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