Open Letter: Ban Tear Gas and Kinetic Weaponry in Albany

Approved by the Reimagine Public Safety Committee on 13 July 2022.

On May 30th, 2020, people in Albany took to the streets demanding an end to police violence, joining the start of the largest protest movement in American history. Police nationwide responded with brutality, tear gassing unarmed, peaceful crowds. The South End, and much of Downtown Albany was also blanketed in tear gas that night. On June 2nd, 2020, the Albany Police Department tear gassed Arbor Hill. The violence concentrated in these systemically blighted, predominantly working class Black neighborhoods sent an unmistakable message. Albany demanded justice. APD responded with poison.

APD has faced no consequences for their past acts of violence. A corrupt court system has shown where legal consequences end. Politicians, either afraid or unwilling, likewise refuse to stand up for their constituents, instead rewarding APD with increased budgets and back pay for the overtime they spent assaulting the civil rights activists who criticize them. We are past the time for new regulations.

APD uses their power to hurt the people of Albany. It’s time to take that power back.

On July 18th, Councilmember and DSA member Gabriella Romero will introduce two pieces of legislation to fully ban the use of tear gas and impact rounds in our city. We demand the Common Council pass both of them, and that Mayor Sheehan sign them into law. Remove these weapons of war from our streets, and begin demilitarizing our daily lives.

Too often, what are called “rubber bullets,” are, in fact, regular metal rounds encased in rubber. Other times they’re hard plastic, but still fired from a gun. They maim and kill just like regular munitions, the major difference is the ease with which police are permitted to use them.

Tear gas can cause miscarriage, blindness, permanent skin and nerve damage, brain hemorrhaging, and PTSD, in addition to its intended effects of stinging pain and suffocation. It likewise increases the risk of respiratory diseases, making APD’s decision to deploy tear gas during the COVID-19 pandemic, a disease which specifically attacks the lungs, dangerous and cruel beyond belief.

We have an opportunity now to take these weapons of war off our streets:

We call on popular organizations and institutions which stand for justice and peace to join our call to ban these weapons. A society where the people who hold the guns are unchallenged is a police state, not a democracy.

We ask those individuals who have been subjected to tear gas to share their stories. Contact us at if you are comfortable doing so. We will maintain your confidentiality if desired.

Call and write to your ward representative demanding the passage of these bills. Email to demand they take action.

We have the power to change Albany for the better.