Service + Solidarity Spotlight: Union Member Uses Seat on City Council to Lead Fight to Ban Tear Gas

Braxton Winston
Braxton Winston

During the COVID-19 pandemic and widespread protests in response to the killing of George Floyd, working people across the United States have stepped up to help out our friends, neighbors and communities. In our new Service + Solidarity Spotlight series, we'll showcase one of those stories every day. Here's today's story.

Braxton Winston knows what it’s like to be tear-gassed by the police while exercising his First Amendment rights to nonviolently protest police brutality. A member of the Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE) and a City Council member in Charlotte, North Carolina, since 2017, he has led the fight to ban the use of tear gas in his city. Last week, the Charlotte City Council voted to stop funding chemical agents for the police department. Winston wrote an editorial column for The Washington Post, in which he described his experience and what led him to fight for this change:

“No chemical agents should be used on a human being anywhere in this world. And that certainly includes American streets as citizens exercise their First Amendment rights. Being exposed to tear gas and pepper ball rounds is a miserable experience that I will never forget….

“Our police chief has argued that without chemical agents, police will be forced to use batons to break skin and bones. But that is not an acceptable answer to the people of Charlotte. What’s more, comments like that hurtfully evoke Bull Connor’s German shepherds and fire hoses. If the current police chief, or the new chief set to take over in September, cannot figure out how to deal with human beings without the tactics of violence and fear, the people that make up this city will be here, step by step, to show him how to deal with us as the sentient beings we are.”