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Portland, Ore., mayor halts use of tear gas on protesters

Sept. 10 (UPI) -- Portland, Ore., Mayor Tom Wheeler on Thursday ordered police to stop using tear gas on protesters after months of demonstrations against police brutality and racism.

The ban will last "until further notice," he said in a statement.

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"It's time for everyone to reduce the violence in our community," Wheeler said. "We all want change. We all have the opportunity and obligation to create change. We all want to focus on the fundamental issue at hand -- justice for Black people and all people of color."

There have been daily protests in the city since late May after the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis sparked global demonstrations.

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Lawsuits have targeted federal and local law enforcement's use of tear gas against Portland protesters, including, at times, against those taking part in peaceful demonstrations. In some cases, demonstrators began carrying leaf blowers with them to deflect the gas away from them.

Wheeler said his order came as the result of a review on the use of tear gas by the Oregon State Legislature and a Joint Committee on Transparent Policing and Use of Force Reform.

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He likewise called on protesters to halt violence and vandalism, including throwing projectiles at police, and setting debris and buildings on fire.

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"Arson, vandalism and violence are not going to drive change in this community," he said. "I expect the police to arrest people who engage in criminal acts. I expect the district attorney to prosecute those who commit criminal acts. And I expect the rest of the criminal justice system to hold those individuals accountable. We must stand together as a community against violence and for progress."

Amnesty International said last month that U.S. law enforcement has committed dozens of human rights violations throughout the months of protests, including the use of "militarized equipment" such as tear gas and pepper spray against activists, journalists, legal observers and street medics.

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