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Charlotte Stops Funding Police Chemical Agents Amid Protests

Police disperse tear gas in downtown Raleigh during a protest on May 30, 2020 to call for justice in the death of George Floyd, a black man who died while in police custody in Minneapolis earlier in the week.
Peyton Sickles

The Charlotte City Council has voted to stop funding chemical agents for police use after the city’s police boxed in and gassed demonstrators protesting the death of George Floyd.

The measure to defund the chemical agents passed in a 9-2 vote Monday night after being introduced by a council member who was arrested during one of the protests, news outlets reported. After a demonstrator documented the use of gas last Tuesday in a widely shared video, Mayor Vi Lyles condemned it and the police chief called it “disturbing.”

The city’s police department has spent $103,000 on chemical agents in 2020, City Budget Director Ryan Bergman said. Taking them away “will be a slap on the wrist” for police, but it's “one step toward defunding the entire police department,” Tin Nguyen, an organizer and attorney, told the Charlotte Observer.

Council member Ed Driggs, who voted against the ban, called it a “gratuitous dig at police.”

And while the Mecklenburg County Sheriff’s Office announced earlier Monday its deputies would stop using tear gas in protests, citing tensions with the community, a local chapter of the Fraternal Order of Police slammed the city council’s decision as “dangerous” following the vote.

“Without their use, this city would be on fire, and injuries would be much greater,” they said in a Facebook post.

The councilman who introduced the motion, Braxton Winston, said defunding chemical agents “alone is not good enough,” and urged supporters Monday to display “the same energy tomorrow morning that you have displayed over the past few weeks.”

Corine Mack, president of the Charlotte NAACP, called the motion a “Band-Aid” and said it does not hold local leaders accountable. Aside from the chemical agents ban, the council approved a new budget Monday for the coming fiscal year and allocated about $290 million for city’s police department.

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