NEW ORLEANS — New Orleans healthcare professionals are calling on the New Orleans Police Department to stop using "aggressive crowd control techniques" against protesters calling for an end to police brutality and racial discrimination across the country.
Hundreds of healthcare professionals signed onto the letter, which states that they stand in solidarity with the protesters and lays out the dangers of crowd control techniques used by police, as seen in New Orleans on the Crescent City Connection June 3.
In the letter, sent to NOPD and published by The Lens, doctors lay out the dangers of using tear gas, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.
"Tear gas is used as an alternative to more lethal force despite it initially being developed as a tool for physical and psychological torture," the letter reads. "Chemical irritants such as tear gas are banned from use in warfare, yet we allow them to be used to cause harm on our own citizens. The use of tear gas causes injuries indiscriminately, which according to the organization Physicians for Human Rights, could be a violation of International Human Rights principles."
The letter acknowledges the increased risk of COVID-19 transmission during large gatherings like protests, but adds that the use of tear gas is much more dangerous.
"The use of tear gas is in direct conflict with appropriate infection control measures in times of a pandemic. Its use can increase the risk of infection with COVID-19 by irritating the respiratory tract, increasing inflammation and inducing cough, thus dispersing droplets throughout the surrounding environment," the letter reads. "To use a chemical that increases the risk of these symptoms in the midst of one of the deadliest infectious disease outbreaks in modern day history is irresponsible and could contribute to overwhelming an already overburdened healthcare system."
NOPD officers deployed canisters of tear gas into a crowd of hundreds, possibly thousands of protesters Wednesday, June 3, on the Crescent City Connection Bridge as they attempted to cross a police barricade.
It was the only physical encounter between police and protesters so far in New Orleans through more than a week of protests highlighting the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minnesota police and the deaths of other black men and women in encounters with police over the years.
To read the full letter from New Orleans medical professionals, click here.