PJ Media reports that five “protestors” are suing Seattle. They claim the city effectively levied a “protest tax” by allowing police to use “military-grade munitions” to break up unruly crowds. The suit argues only people who are rich enough to buy armor have a First Amendment right to protest.
It looks to me like the real basis of the suit can be summed up as “No fair! You hit us back!” The cops dealing with the rioters in places such as Seattle have had rocks, bricks, and other projectiles lobbed at them. They’ve had large fireworks explode around them. They’ve been sprayed with bear spray which is much stronger than the pepper spray designed for use on humans. Most of the time, the police have held their fire, but when they have responded, they’ve used crowd control tools and techniques that are generally less dangerous than what they have faced.
While the military has access to the same sort of crowd control tools that the civilian police use, that doesn’t make them “military-grade munitions.”
BTW, just because a munition is “military-grade,” it isn’t necessarily too powerful to be in general circulation in society. The 9mm pistol cartridge used by the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, and Air Force is less powerful than the .40 S&W cartridge used in pistols carried by many officers of the Seattle Police. The 5.56 mm NATO rifle cartridge used in the M16 rifle and M4 carbine is less powerful than the .30/30 Winchester round that has been in hands of the public for over a century.
If the police cannot use a range of tools that are less dangerous than firearms when confronted with rioters and arsonists, their range of responses will be reduced as well. When faced with potentially lethal violence (one can be killed by a thrown brick, people die in fires), they will have to choose between retiring from the scene and leaving it to the rioters—or opening fire with live ammunition. When the Seattle Council voted to prevent the police using less lethal tools, the police chief let the community know that she would not risk her officers’ lives to protect property. A federal court has put the council’s order on hold for awhile, so the police haven’t faced a flee or fire choice. Yet.
I’m told it’s uncomfortable to be hit with a pepper ball. I’ll bet a 165-grain jacked hollow point bullet hurts worse.