NYSCASA Submits Statement in Support of Proposed Ban on Tear Gas in Albany, NY

Click here to download this statement as a PDF.

For Immediate Release: April 19, 2021 

Contact: NYSCASA Staff, info@nyscasa.org 

NYSCASA Statement for April 19, 2021, Albany Common Council Meeting: Demonstrate Accountability and Transformative Leadership, Ban Chemical Weapons and Kinetic Energy Munitions in the City of Albany 

The New York State Coalition Against Sexual Assault is committed to ending oppression in all of its forms, including racist and state-sanctioned violence. NYSCASA condemns the violence perpetuated by state and local law enforcement against Black and brown community members in the City of Albany, our home. 

This statement echoes many of the statements previously shared by NYSCASA and our neighbors. Community members have repeatedly called for policy and structural change, an acknowledgment of collective trauma experienced by our Black and brown community members, and an end to the Albany Police Department’s use of excessive force against protesters. State and local officials have repeatedly ignored these calls, which is what brings us here today. 

As experts on trauma, we are concerned about how decisions made by law enforcement will continue to traumatize our communities in Albany and across the state. 

In June 2020, our staff were first-hand witnesses to intensified policing and surveillance in primarily Black communities. Individuals living in these neighborhoods were held to vague curfews, threatened with violence from law enforcement, and overall, had their inalienable civil rights dismissed. We also witnessed the presence of a heavily armed, militarized police force escalating otherwise peaceful situations. We also witnessed the use of excessive force in situations where de-escalation tactics would have been effective and should have been used.

Last week, during a protest outside Albany’s South Station, members of the Albany Police Department chose violence, instead of employing the de-escalation tactics in which they have been trained. We witnessed one officer injure a Black woman with a megaphone that he ripped from her hands. We witnessed other officers pushing and shoving people who tried to assist her. We witnessed officers indiscriminately using pepper spray on the crowd, including a 14-year-old. Then we witnessed Albany PD and City leadership attempt to justify the officers’ use of excessive force by falsely claiming that this protest was a so-called “riot.” 

We continue to invite our local and state leadership to commit to the following:

  • Stop using excessive force against protesters and stop poisoning our communities with chemical weapons, such as tear gas. Instead, require the widespread use of de-escalation tactics to prevent harm. If officers are not trained in de-escalation techniques, train them. If officers still choose to escalate, fire them.
  • Increase consequences and liability for officers who engage in violence and misconduct.
  • Acknowledge the historical trauma behind the grief and anger that our communities are expressing, and take action to prevent further traumatizing people who have experienced the trauma of anti-Blackness and white supremacy.
  • Refrain from using language that distinguishes between “nonviolent” and “violent” protests. This only serves to divide and villainize our communities, especially Black communities of color, when we must stand together in the face of anti-Black, racist violence.
  • Respond to protests and grievances with policy and structural change, not with increased policing and surveillance. Shift resources away from law enforcement and toward non-police interventions that promote accountability and safe, healthy communities. Reduce the size of the police force and spending on militarization. Instead invest in the healthcare, housing, education, and other resources that our communities need and that increase safety and prevent violence.

NYSCASA joins our Albany neighbors in demanding an end to the use of tear gas and rubber bullets by the Albany Police Department. The indiscriminate use of these so-called “non-lethal” weapons is harmful. It is violence. Rubber bullets can result in severe injuries, such as bone fractures and injuries to internal organs, and in some cases, death. In addition, chemical irritants such as tear gas and pepper spray can have significant health impacts, ranging from damage to the eyes and skin to serious respiratory, psychological, cardiovascular, oral and gastrointestinal, and reproductive complications. Moreover, it is unconscionable to use a chemical weapon that causes severe respiratory distress against civilians as we are all challenged by a fatal respiratory illness in the form of COVID-19. 

Today, we call on the Albany Common Council to demonstrate transformative leadership in this critical moment. We call on the council to pass Local Law C of 2021 as it is written and ban the use of chemical weapons and kinetic energy munitions. We call on the council to vote against any amendments that would allow law enforcement to use these dangerous weapons in the city we call our home. 

Today, the Albany Common Council has an opportunity to make the City of Albany a leader in justice and accountability. What will your legacy be?

Click here to download this statement as a PDF.