NEW YORK (HRNW) — In law enforcement, they’re referred to as “nonlethal” tools for dealing with demonstrations that turn unruly: rubber bullets, pepper spray, batons, flash-bangs.
But the now-familiar scenes of U.S. police officers in riot gear clashing with protesters at Lafayette Park across from the White House and in other cities have police critics charging that the weaponry too often escalates tensions and hurts innocent people.
“When you see riot gear, it absolutely changes the mood,” said Ron Moten, a longtime community organizer in the nation’s capital who was out demonstrating this weekend. He said it takes away any perception the officers could be empathetic.
“If I went up to speak with a police officer and I’m covered in armor and holding a shield and a stick, don’t you think they would regard me as a threat?”
“When we see riot gear, as black people it takes us back 400 years,” he said.