In Los Angeles and cities across the country, police departments tried to contain the agitation caused by the death of George Floyd by firing rubber bullets at the crowd, despite five decades of evidence showing that these weapons can disable, deface and even kill.
In addition to rubber bullets – which usually have a metal core – the police used tear gas, instant grenades, pepper spray and projectiles to control crowds of protesters demanding justice for 46-year-old George Floyd, who died after a Minneapolis police officer. he knelt on his neck while other officers restrained his body. Some peaceful demonstrations have turned violent, with people breaking windows, setting buildings on fire and looting shops.
Police use of rubber bullets sparked outrage as graphic images appeared on social media showing people who lost an eye or suffered other injuries after being hit.
I just got hit by a rubber bullet near the back of my throat. I just interviewed a man with my phone on the 3rd and Pine and a policeman pointed and shot me in the throat, I saw the bullet bouncing off the street @LAist @kpcc OK, this is a way to stop me, for a while pic.twitter.com/9C2u5KmscG
– Adolfo Guzman-Lopez (@AGuzmanLopez) June 1, 2020
AN study published in 2017 in the BMJ found that 3% of people hit by rubber bullets died due to the injury. Fifteen percent of the 1,984 people studied were permanently injured by rubber bullets, also known as "kinetic impact projectiles".
Rubber bullets are to be used only to control "an extremely dangerous crowd," said Brian Higgins, a former police chief in Bergen County, New York.
"Shooting crowds is reckless and dangerous," said Douglas Lazzaro, a professor and specialist in eye trauma at NYU Langone Health.
Last week, a grandmother in La Mesa, California, he was hospitalized in an intensive care unit after being hit between the eyes with a rubber bullet. Actor Kendrick Sampson said he was hit by rubber bullets seven times at a protest in Los Angeles.
In Washington, DC, the National Guard reportedly fired rubber bullets on Monday to disperse peaceful protesters near a historic church where President Donald Trump was subsequently photographed.
In a statement, Atty. General William Barr defended the actions of local and federal police in Washington, saying that "they had made significant progress in restoring order in the nation's capital".
Barr did not mention the use of tear gas or rubber bullets.
Freelance photographer Linda Tirado said she was blinded by a rubber bullet at a protest in Minneapolis.
In an email, Minneapolis Police Department spokesman John Elder said: “We use 40mm less lethal foam marker bullets. We don't use rubber bullets. "
No one knows how often the police use rubber bullets, or how many people are harmed each year, said Rohini Haar, a professor at the University of California-Berkeley School of Public Health and a medical expert at Physicians for Human Rights. Many victims do not go to the hospital.
The police are not required to document the use of rubber bullets; therefore, there is no national data to show how often they are used, said Higgins, now an adjunct professor at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York. There are no nationally agreed standards for their use.
When aimed at the legs, rubber bullets can prevent a dangerous person or crowd from approaching a police officer, Lazzaro said.
But when fired at close range, rubber bullets can penetrate the skin, break bones, fracture the skull and explode the eyeball, he said. Rubber bullets can cause traumatic brain injuries and "serious abdominal injuries, including injuries to the spleen and intestines, as well as large blood vessels," said Dr. Robert Glatter, emergency physician at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York and a spokesman. of the American College of Emergency Physicians.
Firing rubber bullets from a distance decreases their strength and accuracy, increasing the risk of shooting people in the face or hitting onlookers, Lazzaro said.
Physicians for Human Rights, a non-profit advocacy group based in New York, called for a ban on rubber bullets.
The British armed forces developed rubber bullets 50 years ago to control nationalist protesters in Northern Ireland, although the UK stopped using them decades ago. Rubber bullets are used by Israeli security forces against Palestinian protesters. French police were criticized for using rubber bullets last year, after dozens of “yellow jacket” protesters were blinded and hundreds were injured.
"Rubber bullets are used almost every day somewhere in the world," said Haar. "Using them against unarmed civilians is a huge violation of human rights."
Many “less lethal” police weapons can cause serious damage, according to Human Rights Doctors.
- Acoustic weapons, like sound cannons that produce painfully loud noises, they can damage your hearing.
- Tear gas can make it difficult to see and breathe.
- Pepper spray, while painful and irritating, does not cause permanent damage, said Lazzaro.
- Pepper spray balls, which have been used to contain recent protests, can be deadly when used incorrectly. In 2004, a 21 year old woman from Boston was hit in the eye and killed by a pepper spray pellet fired by police to disperse crowds celebrating the World Series victory in the city.
- Disorientation devices that create loud noises and bright lights, known as concussion grenade or crashes, can cause severe burns and explosion injuries, including damage to the eardrum. Panicked crowds can cause crush injuries.
- Water Cannons it can cause internal injuries, falls and even freezing during cold weather.
- Physical strength, like hitting someone to subdue them, causes about 1 in 3 people to be hospitalized, said Howie Mell, a spokesman for the American College of Emergency Physicians and a former tactical physician, who worked with teams SWAT.
Rubber bullets are less harmful than subjugating people by "physical force or regular bullets," said Mell. "But we are shooting a lot more of them this week than we usually do."