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Charlotte Talks: From Battlefields To City Streets, A History Of Tear Gas

Michael Falero / WFAE

Thursday, July 9, 2020

Police lobbing tear gas has been a common sight in this year's protests over police brutality and racism. How did a chemical weapon that has been banned in warfare become a tool for law enforcement?

More than 100 U.S. cities, including Charlotte, Asheville and Raleigh, have seen police fire tear gas to break up recent demonstrations. It was the most widespread use of tear gas since the unrest of the 1960s and 1970s, The New York Times reported.

Charlotte-Mecklenburg police came under heavy criticism for its use of tear gas in early June, and City Council responded with a one-year halt on the purchase of chemical agents. Other cities have instituted outright bans on the use of tear gas, and some congressional Democrats are pursuing similar action.

Police, including now-former CMPD chief Kerr Putney, have defended their use of tear gas, saying that without it officers would have to use more aggressive, more physical force.


Anna Feigenbaum, author of "Tear Gas: From the Battlefields of World War I to the Streets of Today," associate professor of communication and digital media at Bournemouth University (@drfigtree)

A veteran of Charlotte radio news, Chris joined the "Charlotte Talks" staff in January 2016, but has been listening to WFAE since discovering the station as a high schooler.