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What will tear gas do to us? Look to the trees.

By Janet Weil

(The trees of downtown Portland have suffered horribly from the use of chemical weapons. This tree in front of the Multnomah County Courthouse may be dying. Photo credit: Janet Weil)

This is a follow up to Austen’s post, “What has tear gas done to Portland?” I didn’t want to do a follow up on police tear gas poisoning of the Rose City. We rebels in XRPDX have a lot of other issues to focus on, during this very hot summer. Giving support to the Black Lives Matter movement by being on the streets and signing petitions, like this one for the BREATHE Act. Keeping a sharp eye on the Jordan Cove LNG situation, which is looking hopeful, in part thanks to this upcoming legislation offered by Senators Wyden and Merkley. Looking ahead to how the Climate Emergency Declaration will be implemented. Offering orientations on climate science and climate action. Standing strong in our weekly Fridays for Future vigil. Connecting with XR rebels in the US and around the world. Also, when Austen wrote that blog post, I expected the teargassing to end soon. Wow, was I ever wrong. Beyond my anger and concern over what all these harsh chemicals are doing to humans and our right to protest, I have to keep attention on tear gas, because I love trees, and trees can’t talk, or walk away. Some of the trees around Chapman Park and Lownsdale Square appear to be dying. The grass is completely gone, and a strange odor rises from the bare dirt. Portland police and Federal agents have sprayed an unknown amount of tear gas and other chemicals (their smoke grenades are just as toxic) on the humans, the ground, the trees, across from the Justice Center and the Federal Courthouse. So much teargas has been deployed that the Federal Aviation Administration saw it on their radars. Those chemicals, as well as chemicals used to remove graffiti, have now moved into the sewer system, and from there into the Willamette River. Oregon Public Broadcasting (among others) asks, “What will all that tear gas mean for trees, water and wildlife?”

(The chemicals used to remove graffiti are also extremely toxic and the City of Portland is their number one customer! Photo credit: Janet Weil)

The Feds have left the scene — at least the ones with the guns. But the teargassing continues. Now the police are spraying their taxpayer-paid poisons in residential neighborhoods on the Eastside of Portland, scene of nightly protests at police precinct houses.


No elected official has acted to stop this poisoning of living beings, human and non-human alike, in Portland. Mayor Ted Wheeler, who is also the Police Commissioner and who made a point of getting teargassed by the Feds on July 22, cannot stop it. The City Council cannot. Governor Kate Brown, who, on June 30, signed a law banning use of tear gas except in case of “riot” cannot stop it. In response to this law, the cops now always declare a riot, often on some very thin pretext.


Why are civilian elected leaders so powerless, so timid, so quiet in the face of relentless violence by militarized police against people who mostly voted for them? You’ll have to ask them. (You'll probably go straight to voicemail.)


The police often use tear gas and other chemical agents as a first resort, a frequent opener to their nightly bull rush, as they grab medics and journalists; scream at, taunt, and assault protesters; slash the tires of passing vehicles; and make arrests. Violent, face-to-the-pavement, pepper-spray-ready arrests.


Somehow, some night, the protests might end, followed by medical care for the traumatized and lawsuits that will go on for years. But the trees may be dying in front of our stinging eyes.


Please support investigations into the effects of tear gas: https://www.xrpdx.org/post/support-investigations-into-the-effects-of-teargas

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