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Hennepin County board votes against motion condemning use of tear gas, rubber bullets on protesters

Commissioners cited recent events in Brooklyn Center.

The Hennepin County Board of Commissioners has rejected a motion that condemned the use of chemical irritants and less lethal projectiles by law enforcement against protesters.

Commissioners Irene Fernando and Marion Greene introduced the resolution during a committee meeting Tuesday. The resolution cited recent events in the Twin Cities this year involving the use of chemical irritants and less lethal projectiles by law enforcement during protests.

It also cited research from the University of Minnesota documenting injuries caused by less lethal projectiles like rubber bullets, and notes that the county can be held financial liable for anyone injured by such methods.

“I’ve been over the years increasingly uncomfortable with the ever increasing militarization of public safety functions,” Greene said during the meeting.

Greene cited protests in Brooklyn Center over the police killing of Daunte Wright earlier this month. Videos from the scene during the first few nights of protest showed police in armored vehicles firing rubber bullets and regularly using tear gas.

Commissioner Angela Conley spoke in favor of the resolution. She mentioned actions by other governments condemning the tactics. According to the Star Tribune, Minneapolis and Brooklyn Center have already passed similar resolutions.

“We’ve heard from other community organizations, we’ve from heard other municipalities, other representatives about what can be used,” Conley said. “The conversations are happening, and our board has a responsibility to … codify what we think about these kinds of forces.”

But other commissioners pushed back on the resolution. Commissioner Jeffrey Lunde said the resolution would need to outline what tactics are acceptable if protests escalate or become violent.

“I want to know what’s left. I’ve heard comments saying it’s ok if we let things burn. There are times when things have to happen. I don’t know what those are, but I know those on the ground making those decisions are not involved in these conversations,” Lunde said.

Commissioner Kevin Anderson expressed similar concerns, adding he believes the Hennepin County Sheriff’s Department, which was heavily involved in the response to the Daunte Wright protests, should be more involved in crafting the resolution.

“We cannot prevent ourselves and our law enforcement from being able to respond to actual real threats,” Anderson said, citing the U.S. Capitol Insurrection on Jan. 6 as an example of such threats.

“That is not to say that we should… permit our law enforcement to retaliate against peaceful protesters. But they have to have the tools in their toolbox to take care of violent situations.”

The resolution ultimately failed to pass on a vote of 3-4, with Fernando, Greene and Conley voting in favor. 

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