Following a night of protests where Portland police officers chased protesters with tear gas and concussion grenades, City Commissioner Chloe Eudaly called on the Police Bureau to stop deploying tear gas at crowds.
"The Geneva Convention banned the use of tear gas. I think we should, too," Eudaly said during a City Council meeting on Wednesday. "I am absolutely horrified by what I saw last night. It is sadistic to be using tear gas in the middle of a public health crisis. It's attacking people's respiratory symptoms."
On Tuesday night, the Portland police deployed tear gas and other chemical agents at protesters for hours. Portland police have targeted protesters with similar chemical agents and stun grenades since Saturday, sometimes lobbing them at crowds.
During the council meeting, Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty said the city is obligated to determine the impact of chemical weapons against protesters.
"I share Commissioner Eudaly's concern about [the fact that] we are in the midst of the pandemic. We know that it causes respiratory distress," Hardesty said. "And we know that, as we see more and more people showing up to protests, those people are putting their health at risk, and that risk is going to be exacerbated by tear gas and other chemical elements."
Last night, in a series of tweets, Hardesty condemned the Portland police's tactics, calling the use of tear gas and flash-bang grenades "completely unacceptable."
Mayor Ted Wheeler's office did not respond immediately to WW's request for comment about whether he supports banning the use of tear gas.
The conflicts on Tuesday escalated as protests neared closer to midnight. A now widely circulated video from KGW-TV shows a caravan of Portland police vehicles driving straight toward a group of people who were moving barricades on the street.
In a news release responding to the video, the Portland Police Bureau said a large group of protesters began using barricades to block the intersection, and that pallets and other large items were being used to create a large pile.
"A bucket of what was believed to be an accelerant was poured on the large pile of items by a protestor," the bureau wrote on its website. "There was significant concern about the dangerousness of the situation and life safety risk for those in the vicinity….Officers drove through the large pile of items to prevent the pile from being ignited."
The police say they are "researching the circumstances surrounding this incident."
Eudaly said the city must listen to demonstrators.
"These protesters want action, and we are not giving it them," Eudaly said during Wednesday's press conference. "I'm really worried about the health impacts that these protests might be having, but what I see out there is beautiful. It's an uprising and it's a reckoning and we have got to do something now."