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Forensic Architecture (FA) at Goldsmiths, University of London
Despite being broadly banned in warfare under the terms of the 1925 Geneva Protocol, tear gas as an agent for so-called ‘riot control’ has become the preferred means for police, in the US and around the world, to clear dissenting voices from public spaces. But the toxic chemicals contained in tear gas and other widely-used chemical munitions can cause serious short- and long-term side effects, from asthma and chemical burns to lung injury and neurodegeneration.
In 2020, as protests swept across the US in response to the police killing of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor—just two in a long trajectory of other Black Americans killed with impunity by American law enforcement—police forces in cities from Philadelphia to Minneapolis responded with excessive force to suppress these demonstrations.
In Portland, Oregon, the demonstrations went on for months, and were consistently met with repeated and excessive use of tear gas by the city’s police force, the Portland Police Bureau, or PPB.
On 2 June 2020, the PPB deployed large amounts of tear gas in an attempt to force protestors to withdraw from the streets and squares of downtown Portland, unleashing a highly toxic cloud of airborne chemicals onto the same citizens it was tasked with protecting. That day would become known locally as ‘Tear Gas Tuesday’.
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