ST. LOUIS - A St. Louis alderwoman wants to limit when police use chemical agents like pepper spray and tear gas on protesters. Megan Ellyia Green, Ward 15, says Board Bill 134 could better protect their first amendment rights.
"It's time that the City start to put policies in place that really respect the rights of our residents to be out in the street and protesting," Green said.
Green points to examples like Friday's protest downtown, where 5th Ward Democratic Committeeman Rasheen Aldridge says an officer gave no warning before pepper spraying him.
"He just took his pepper spray, sprayed me directly in the face," Aldridge said. "He didn't say, 'If you don't back up, I'm going to spray you.'"
5 On Your Side asked St. Louis police how they gave orders to disperse that night. A spokesperson didn't answer that question, but wrote, "Officers deploy tactics when criminal activity arises and escalation depends on the level of aggression. Pepper spray is a non-lethal tool used when unlawful behavior occurs to protect life and property."
Since the Stockley ruling, several protesters have made similar claims as Aldridge, including Green.
"Myself and some other residents and clergy members were trying to get home, and were walking on the sidewalk, were allowed passage by police only to get tear gassed without warning a block later," Green said.
She says the City's unlawful assembly ordinance is vague.
"There's nothing in the bill that really outlines what an unlawful assembly is," she said.
She wants to replace it with a first amendment protections bill.
"We're tailoring it to really say that in order for an assembly to be unlawful, there has to be a threat of physical violence against people," she said.
It's language she hopes could lead police to use pepper spray and tear gas less frequently.
"To make sure that we're not tear gassing or using pepper spray against people without ample warning, without opportunity to disperse," she said.
The bill also calls for less jail time for people arrested during protests. Green says some people have spent more than 23 hours in jail without being charged. Under her bill, they would be released within four hours.
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