Lorena Gonzalez Bill to Protect Demonstrators from Police Violence Passes Senate Public Safety Committee

Friday, August 7, 2020

SACRAMENTO – (Friday, Aug. 8, 2020) – Building on California’s historic police use of force standards signed into law last year, the Senate Public Safety committee today on a 5 to 1 vote passed Assembly Bill 66 by State Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez (D-San Diego) to set clear standards on the use of “less lethal” weapons by law enforcement officers.

“We’ve watched in horror as rubber bullets and tear gas have been used on protesters exercising their first amendment rights, causing serious life-threatening injuries,” Assemblywoman Gonzalez said. “It’s time that we have a statewide standard on these uses of force, and ensure police officers are not endangering the lives of individuals who pose no threat to others.”

A coalition of state legislators is joining Gonzalez in this effort, including Assemblymembers Ash Kalra (D-San Jose), Wendy Carrillo (D-Los Angeles), Kevin McCarty (D-Sacramento), Phil Ting (D-San Francisco), Shirley Weber (D-San Diego), Cristina Garcia (D-Los Angeles), Miguel Santiago (D-Los Angeles), Robert Rivas (D-Hollister) and David Chiu (D-San Francisco), and Senators Maria Elena Durazo (D-Los Angeles), Lena Gonzalez (D-Long Beach) and Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco).

In recent demonstrations where Californians demanded justice for Black lives, law enforcement agencies deployed so-called “less lethal” weapons like tear gas, chemical agents (pepper balls or spray) and kinetic projectiles (rubber bullets, beanbags and foam rounds). These weapons at the hands of law enforcement have maimed and permanently injured protesters, bystanders, medical professionals and journalists these last few months.

As of June of this year, at least 60 protestors across the country sustained serious head injuries, including a broken jaw, traumatic brain injuries, and blindness, including seven people who have lost an eye.

In order to protect the safety of Californians exercising their right to assemble and protest, AB 66 would:

  • Prohibit the use of kinetic projectiles and chemical agents by law enforcement on peaceful protestors or to facilitate curfews;
  • Prohibit the use of tear gas by law enforcement;
  • Set clear minimum standards for use of these “less lethal” weapons by law enforcement; and
  • Require data collection on the use of, and any resulting injuries from, these “less lethal” weapons.

Under AB 66, officers may never shoot chemical agents or kinetic projectiles indiscriminately against a peaceful crowd. The clear use of force standards set by this bill will prohibit officers from aiming at any person’s head or neck.

The bill bans law enforcement’s use of tear gas, a chemical weapon outlawed in warfare since 1977. Tear gas causes burning pain in the eyes, throat and lungs for up to 30 minutes or longer and can have lethal effects on an individual who is exposed to high concentrations.

Additionally, AB 66 requires cities to request that federal law enforcement officers not use “less lethal” weapons while operating in their jurisdiction.

For questions on AB 66 or to schedule an interview with Assemblywoman Gonzalez, contact Sami Gallegos: samantha.gallegos@asm.ca.gov

Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez represents California’s 80th Assembly District, located in southern San Diego County, including the cities of San Diego, Chula Vista, and National City. She serves as Chair of the Assembly Committee on Appropriations, Chair of the Assembly Select Committee on Women in the Workplace, and Chair of the California Latino Legislative Caucus. For more information on Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez visit https://a80.asmdc.org/