Scottish Parliament votes in favor of immediate suspension of tear gas, rubber bullet exports to US

In response to police brutality and racial injustice that has ignited protests around the world since the death of George Floyd during an encounter with Minneapolis police, the Scottish Parliament voted in favor of the immediate suspension of exports of riot gear from the U.K. to the U.S. 

The successful motion, lead by Minister Patrick Harvie, was backed by a 52-0 vote with 11 abstentions in which the parliament stated it “stands in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement and considers that the U.K. Government must immediately suspend all export licences for tear gas, rubber bullets and riot gear to the U.S.”

“Clearly, the U.S. is not a safe country to which we should be exporting tear gas, rubber bullets and riot gear,” Harvie said. “Those are the weapons of oppression in a society in which police forces -- which, in some states, were founded as slave-capturing militias, still display deeply institutional racism.”

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The Independent reported that the U.S. is reportedly one of the largest buyers of U.K. arms , with £6 billion in licensed exports -- roughly $7.5 billion -- since 2010.

The Scottish Parliament’s motion comes in response to video and images that continue to surface on social media depicting questionable and excessive use of force by officers during protests in response to the death of Floyd.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Minnesota announced last week that is filing a class-action lawsuit against Minnesota’s state and local law enforcement officials, citing instances in which journalists have allegedly experienced “repeated abuse” by law enforcement officers while covering the demonstrations.

The Radio Television Digital News Association counted more than 60 incidents over the weekend in which reporters were “injured, assaulted or harassed by either protesters or police officers," while the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker, a database documenting press freedom violations in the U.S, said it was investigating more than 100 violations at protests around the country.

In Seattle, a U.S. judge ordered police on June 12 to temporarily halt using tear gas, pepper spray and flash-bang devices to break up peaceful protests. 

U.S. District Judge Richard Jones issued the two-week order after a Black Lives Matter group sued the Seattle Police Department June 9 to halt the violent tactics it has used to break up protests.

Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan and Police Chief Carmen Best have apologized to peaceful protesters who were subjected to chemical weapons. But Best said some demonstrators violently targeted police, throwing objects and ignoring orders to disperse. Both have faced calls to resign, which they have rejected.

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Jones said those objecting to police using violent tactics to break up protests make a strong case that the indiscriminate use of force is unconstitutional. Jones said weapons like tear gas and pepper spray fail to target “any single agitator or criminal” and they are especially problematic during the coronavirus pandemic.

“Because they are indiscriminate, they may even spill into bystanders’ homes or offices as they have done before,” Jones wrote.

Along with the Scottish Parliament, major corporations and foreign governments have weighed in on the anti-racism protests that have been going on in the U.S. for several weeks, calling for an end to systemic racism and police brutality. 

Monuments have also become a major focus of contention in demonstrations around the world against racism and police violence after Floyd’s death on May 25.

The New Zealand city of Hamilton on Friday removed a bronze statue of the municipality's namesake, John Hamilton, a British naval officer accused of killing indigenous Maori people in the 1860s.

The city of Camden, New Jersey, took down a statue of Christopher Columbus on Thursday, joining others of the 15th-century explorer that have been removed across the U.S.

In the U.K., a statue of slave trader Edward Colston was hauled from its plinth by protesters in the English port city of Bristol on Sunday and dumped in the harbor.

Several other statues in the U.K. and the U.S. have either been defaced during mass demonstrations, including one of former Prime Minister Winston Churchill. 

Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who cites Churchill as a personal hero, said it was “absurd and shameful” that his statue was “at risk of attack by violent protesters.”

In response to the statues being targeted, Harvie said, “We can still be very proud of parts of our history, and of the same great Scottish and British figures who have molded so much of the world, while acknowledging that some actions were awful, and recognizing that revered figures had serious flaws.”

He suggested the establishment of a slavery museum in Scotland “to address our historical links to the slave trade, and it expresses regret about the fact that so many monuments and street names still celebrate the perpetrators and profiteers of slavery.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.