In a near-unanimous vote, the Minneapolis City Council passed a last-minute resolution Friday to condemn the use of non-lethal weapons such as tear gas and rubber bullets.
This comes as former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin’s trial in the death of George Floyd nears a verdict.
Following the Sunday death of Daunte Wright, the Brooklyn Center City Council voted to prohibit its officers from using non-lethal munitions on protesters gathered outside the police department.
This ban, however, didn’t apply to outside officers involved in Operation Safety Net, a joint command of state, county and local agencies overseeing the public safety response to the Chauvin trial.
The Minneapolis resolution was described as a “statement of values” by City Council President Lisa Bender, who noted that the council may not have the authority to pass an outright ban on these weapons.
“The Minneapolis City Council opposes any use of so-called ‘less lethal’ weapons as crowd control against people in Minneapolis, and calls on the mayor, the police chief, the Hennepin County sheriff, the governor, and any other person in a position of authority over law enforcement personnel to end the use of these weapons,” says the resolution, authored by Council Members Cam Gordon, Jeremiah Ellison, and Jeremy Schroeder
Ellison claimed tools such as tear gas and rubber bullets are “consistently misused.”
“We know that we’ve seen minors with skull fractures, we’ve seen people blinded, we’ve seen a lot of damage come out of the use of these weapons,” he said at a Friday council meeting.
“All that being said, I think the most important thing is that the use of these weapons has never resulted in people peacefully retreating and going home,” Ellison continued. “They’ve always sort of bubbled into more chaotic situations and they’ve always created the atmosphere for folks to be either enraged and express that rage on the property that they can, or for opportunists to swoop in and capitalize on the chaos being created by so much gas and mace and smoke.”
Council Member Lisa Goodman said she supports the resolution, but criticized its authors for introducing the motion just hours before it was discussed.
“I also want to say, after listening to the anguish by many council members very early on in the meeting about being left out of the decision-making in the mayor’s office, that many of you are doing the exact same thing by sending us this at 5:35 last night,” she said.
The resolution directs the Minneapolis city attorney to investigate whether the City Council actually has the authority to ban non-lethal weapons in the Minneapolis Police Department. City Attorney Jim Rowader recommended a pause on considering the resolution to allow his office sufficient time to review it.
“I think the reason for bringing this forward this quickly is that we have all suspected and feared that Operation Safety Net was essentially this approach. It has looked overly-militarized, it has looked overly-defensive, it has looked overly-aggressive,” Council Member Steve Fletcher responded.
Fletcher said it’s “very important” for the Minneapolis City Council to “speak out now to say this is not what we want in our city.”
The council didn’t take Rowader’s advice, instead passing the resolution in an 11-1 vote after roughly 40 minutes of discussion.