Next steps to ban the use of tear gas by law enforcement in Massachusetts

A week ago Sunday evening, while attending the Black Lives Matter demonstration in front of the State House, I bumped into an advocate from the ACLU of Massachusetts who brought it to my attention that tear gas is banned on military battlefields and suggested that the Massachusetts legislature ought to take action to ban the use of tear gas by law enforcement against civilians, too.

As I contemplated the fact that tear gas is a chemical weapon and watched it being used indiscriminately by police officers in Massachusetts and around the country, I started the process of drafting legislation to ban the use of chemical agents by law enforcement in our state.

When I announced these efforts on social media last week, the response was immediate and overwhelmingly positive. In turn, Boston Magazine did an article about it ("An effort to curtail the use of tear gas on protestors is underway in Massachusetts"), and from there, Newsweek reached out to further discuss in the context of similar efforts happening around the country.

Meanwhile, I reached out to several colleagues and advocates to gather feedback and input on the proposal and worked with House Counsel to produce a draft bill.

As part of these efforts, I had several conversations with Rep. Liz Miranda and other members of the Black and Latino Legislative caucus. Following these conversations, I am very pleased to report that Rep. Miranda is planning to include language banning the use of tear gas in her forthcoming bill to prohibit the use of excessive force by law enforcement in Massachusetts.

In this moment when millions of people are standing up to demand justice for George Floyd and an end to systemic racism and police brutality, it is important that the people most impacted are in the lead. I am so grateful to Rep. Miranda for taking the lead on the effort to ban tear gas as part of her overall bill to limit the use of force by police and other law enforcement in Massachusetts, and I look forward to adding my name as a co-sponsor in the very near future. Rep. Miranda's bill is one part of the Massachusetts Elected Officials of Color Ten Point Plan to address racial inequities.

One additional aspect of this work is the need to ensure tear gas and other chemical agents aren't deployed against people who are incarcerated in Massachusetts. Over the course of the past week, I've talked with Liz Matos of Prisoners' Legal Services and discussed this point with Rep. Miranda as well, and it is my understanding that the pending legislation will also seek to address this concern, too.