by Wade Rathke
September 20, 2020
Pearl River We’ve talked about Bjorn Skogquist before, but this time we wanted to catch up with him and the Ban Tear Gas Campaign in more detail on Wade’s World. Bjorn was a former mayor of a small suburb of Minneapolis-St. Paul, who found himself forced into action at his horror at George Floyd’s death by police and then the police tactics used to confront and disperse the protestors from tear gas to pepper spray to rubber bullets. Feeling like he had to do something, he started a Facebook page, the first step for so many outraged activists in these times. He hit a nerve and in less than three months 24,000 people have liked the page!
It’s an active site. Skogquist tries not to post more than a couple of times a week, but there is so much happening around the country in the fight against dispersants that sometimes there are two or three posts a day. These are not trees falling in the forest. Sometimes more than 500 people will like a post and almost as many share it. I don’t know if that makes it viral, but I know that’s hot.
Skogquist is both excited and overwhelmed by the response to this “back pocket” campaign. He now has a couple of volunteers who have offered to give him a hand. He has plans for a website and hopes to put up a donate button soon. Like any campaign, it’s an effort getting everything up off the ground and rolling.
Asking Skogquist about the various efforts to actually ban or restrict dispersants, his answers are more measured. Most legislatures, including his own in Minnesota have backed away from real action. Partially from his own experience and a sense of political realism, when asked where the campaign was going next, Skogquist was certain that the breakthroughs would come through action by municipal governments. Pressed where he had the most hope, he answered Sacramento, California, Asheville, North Carolina, Nashville, Tennessee, and Madison, Wisconsin, all of which he believed were preparing or already engaged in active, local, grassroots efforts.
Even in New Orleans, where there has not been much of a campaign, the reaction to the use of tear gas by police for the first time in decades against George Floyd protestors has led to an ordinance being enacted before the City Council. The police department seems in agreement, so this is likely far from a full-on ban. No action was taken on rubber bullets, another concern of the campaign. As noted by the Lens, the…
…police department had deployed tear gas for the use of crowd control, and in the immediate aftermath of the incident, NOPD was heavily criticized for the decision. (What was not immediately acknowledged by the department, but later confirmed, was that some officers used projectiles as well.)
Skogquist gets almost more riled up over the harm inflicted by rubber bullets, than tear gas, but it’s all part and parcel of the militarization of police in general and their tactics in specific in dealing with even peaceful protests in recent years.
This problem is not coming to a town near you. It is likely already in your town. Pushing back with a campaign to ban these tactics is going to need to be a fight city by city, town by town in order to protect the right of peaceful protest in America.
Wade Rathke is founder and chief organizer of ACORN and ACORN International. You can find Wade’s recent past posts here Chief Organizer Reports. And you can link to his website here Chief Organizer ACORN/ACORN International.