District 8 Alder Juliana Bennett released a call to action this week to support prohibiting the Madison Police Department from using indiscriminate weapons for crowd control.
In her blog, Bennett explained how she introduced an ordinance change to “ban the use of chemical munitions and indiscriminate weapons for purposes of crowd control.” The weapons included in this ordinance are CS spray (tear gas), OC spray (pepper spray) and impact projectiles.
“The Madison Police Department (MPD) exposed the people of Madison to the pervasive effects of chemical munitions during the 2020 Black Lives Matter protests,” Bennett wrote in her blog. “The use of chemical munitions, including tear gas (CS spray) and pepper spray (OC spray) outraged crowds and fostered increasing hostility toward MPD”.
Bennett attended a Black Lives Matter protest in 2020 where she was pepper sprayed and tear gassed by the MPD. This ultimately led her to introduce this ordinance change.
“I feel personally passionate about this issue because I was pepper sprayed and tear gassed. Basically, I was an average everyday protester, I wasn’t even an organizer, wanting to be out there on the streets to fight for Black Lives Matter initiatives,” Bennett explained to the Cardinal. “While I was out on the street, I was told by fellow protesters, ‘Hey, the Madison Police Department might pepper spray or tear gas us, here’s what you need to do — protect yourself,’ then when I was pepper sprayed, it just solidified all of those things that the organizers were telling me into actual facts.”
Bennett went on to explain the passion she holds for this topic, as well as the importance it has to her and other individuals in Madison.
“That experience had a big impact on the way I see policing and I think the way many others view policing,” Bennett said. “The Madison Police Department continuously says that it’s here to protect and serve people before property, and yet, their abuse of chemical weapons says otherwise.”
She also explained that, so far, the public has had mixed reactions to this call to action.
“So far, I’ve seen two sides of the spectrum. There’s the side of the Black Lives organizers where we’re kind of on the same page, and then there’s the pro-police side, which is like ‘No we need these weapons, what happens if we don’t have them,’” Bennet said.
In her blog, Bennett asks those who have had similar experiences to share those experiences to support the ban of these weapons. She also explained the amendments she made to this ordinance change, including “an exception for the use of such weapons ‘when urgent and imminent physical harm is threatened' and/or ‘when significant property damage exists and escalation of damage is threatened’.”
The ordinance change will be debated by the City Council on September 20 at the Madison Common Council.