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Winston Wants To Cut Funding For Tear Gas In City Budget

Braxton Winston
David Boraks
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WFAE

Charlotte City Council member Braxton Winston wants the city to eliminate money in next year's police department budget for chemical agents such as tear gas that are used to disperse crowds. 

Charlotte-Mecklenburg police have used tear gas several times in the past week to quell uptown protests over the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis. 

"No chemical agents should be used by a human being on another human being anywhere in this world. That is definitely true in Charlotte," Winston said Friday morning.

Winston says he'll introduce a motion to make the change when the budget comes up for a vote at Monday's council meeting. 

"My motion puts the stipulation on that budget that no dollars will go to purchase any new chemical agents used for crowd control or crowd dispersal during the fiscal year 2021," Winston said. 

Winston says his motion also calls for the creation of an oversight committee of city council members and the city manager, which would scrutinize police spending, policies, and tactics. "This is how we will comprehensively reform policing,” he said. 

At a press conference Friday evening, CMPD chief Kerr Putney said tear gas was a valuable tool necessary for crowd control.

“Without the ability to disperse an angry crowd or a violent crowd that is damaging property and assaulting people with chemical munitions, we’re going to hearken back to what we experienced in the '50s and '60s of physical force, which is absolutely unacceptable to me," Putney said. "I think we’re better than that as an organization, and we’re definitely better than that as a city.”

night2_j_steinmetz.jpg
Credit Jesse Steinmetz / WFAE
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WFAE
A cloud of tear gas, or another chemical agent, used to disperse protesters Saturday, May 30, can be seen here.

It's not clear if Winston has the votes to win approval.  "I have talked to some of my colleagues and I believe we could be in a good position to have the political will to do this. I have not talked to all my colleagues. We'll continue to work with this over the weekend," he said. 

Winston was among those arrested during the first night of protests in Charlotte last week. He is due back in court in October on the charge of failure to disperse. 

At a press conference this week, Winston asked CMPD deputy chief Johnny Jennings how he could have avoided arrest. Jennings told him he should have left the scene. Jennings offered to continue the conversation privately. On Friday, Winston said he has not met with anyone at CMPD since then. 

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