To Our Honorable Mayor and City Council,
Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department recently trapped and gassed citizen-protesters on the streets of uptown. To try to appease critics of this brutality, you took the practically meaningless, symbolically meager step of temporarily halting CMPD’s purchase of new chemical weapons — even as you now seem prepared to fight in court for the right to keep gassing the city’s people.
In an era when peace officers increasingly act like occupying military forces attempting to control hostile, foreign populations, it’s regrettably predictable that you would support the ability of the police to use banned weapons of war against the community.
While your position is disappointing, it also presents an exciting opportunity for a grand civic experiment, offering you a chance to exercise the sort of servant-leadership that will mark Charlotte as a cutting-edge metropolis and at long last vault our hometown into the ranks of the world-class.
How can you perform this important public service? It’s simple, really: GAS YOURSELVES!
Posted online are numerous videos and news stories featuring police officers intentionally tasing their colleagues. The thinking goes that before officers can deploy these sometimes-lethal weapons against their fellow citizens, they themselves ought to know how it feels to be violently jolted with electricity.
CMPD is among the agencies that has tased its own officers as part of their training. An October 2005 city-published newsletter explained that many officers are shot with a TASER “so they fully understand the implications of its use.”
Since you believe it’s acceptable for the cops to use chemical weapons against the people of Charlotte, I’m sure you’ll also heartily agree that it’s altogether fitting and proper that CMPD should use those weapons against each and every one of you — so that you may fully understand the implications of their use. Your reactions to being assaulted with such munitions can then serve as models for the rest of us when we are attacked.
We’ll start with the tear gas. Each of you will be placed in a confined area with no means of escape. We’ll turn down the lights and turn up a noise machine so your visual and aural abilities are impaired, simulating real-world circumstances on the nighttime streets. We won’t necessarily gas you right away, and we certainly won’t tell you when it’s coming. Some of you will be hit quickly; others will have to wait. We want this experience to be authentic, so we’ll keep you guessing.
The police chief will eventually fire a gas canister at you. (I assume he’ll be just as willing to gas you as he is to gas your constituents.) You’ll spend several minutes flailing around as the chemicals eat at your airways. You’ll choke and gag and cry and retch. You’ll yell out in pain and discomfort. You’ll struggle to breathe. You’ll become disoriented and confused.
We’ll then promptly move on to the pepper spray. Just as you begin to recover from the gas, the chief will douse you with capsicum. First you’ll feel burning. Then there’ll be more choking and gagging and crying and retching. More pain and discomfort. More disorientation. More confusion.
After the attacks have concluded, and in the spirit of civic education, each of you can share your experiences with us in a wheezy, red-eyed press conference. I am especially looking forward to what will no doubt be a most serious presentation by that most serious of Councilmen, Mr. Bokhari, who I trust will make liberal use of his whiteboard to chart all the relevant data.
Now, I am aware that others of our community leaders — and here I’m thinking especially of the prominent chamber-of-commerce types — might also want to participate in our experiment so they, too, can demonstrate their own dedication to municipal boosterism. I see no reason to leave them out. Indeed, their exclusion from the proceedings would be too great a loss to contemplate.
This is your moment, honorable Mayor and Council. This is our moment, the city’s moment.
Blaze a weepy trail!
Do that which no other group of local elected officials in America has done, making our fair home the envy of all others and a leader throughout this great land.
Then, surely, we shall be counted as a truly world-class city and the crown jewel of the New South.
It requires only that you subject yourselves to the same gasping and gulping, heaving and hacking, croaking and coughing to which you believe the people themselves should be subjected.
(This piece was originally published in June 2020. It is reproduced here as a preview of the kind of work to come.)