As of Tuesday, more than 1.1 million people have signed a petition on Change.org, demanding that rubber bullets be banned from use by police officers. Concerns have grown after nearly two weeks of protests have been held across the U.S. in response to the death of George Floyd, who police killed during his arrest in Minneapolis, Minnesota, on May 25.
While the protests grew, so did the police presence, which in several cases led to use for force by officers, including tear gas and rubber bullets — both of which are cited as non-lethal options for crowd control. However, as the petition notes, rubber bullets "can be extremely lethal," citing "bone fractures, injuries to internal organs, or even death" when used at too close a proximity. It also mentioned that "rubber and plastic bullets are too dangerous for crowd control," citing that they've been banned in areas like Kosovo and Catalonia. The petition also cited the fact that numerous protestors had been severely injured after being struck by rubber bullets.
The use of rubber bullets has increased dramatically in recent days, including on June 1, when President Donald Trump had ordered them to be used in dispersing of peaceful protesters near the White House ahead of a photo-op in front of St. Johns Episcopal Church. In an interview with Fox News on Monday, Attorney General William Barr claimed he was unaware of the president's decision, but defended it nonetheless. "I found out later that afternoon that he might go outside the White House," Barr explained. "The decision to move out the perimeter was originally made Sunday night by the Park Police. The president of the United States should be able to walk one block out from the White House out to the church of presidents. He should be able to do that."
The ongoing protests have called for drastic reforms within police departments, including an end to the disproportionate violence that minorities can face while incarcerated. Minneapolis, where Floyd was arrested, has already elected to defund its police department as part of an enormous restructuring. Black Lives Matter co-founder Patrisse Cullors praised the decision to The New York Times, calling it a "massive" step forward. "This is the first time we are seeing, in our country's history, a conversation about defunding, and some people having a conversation about abolishing the police and prison state. This must be what it felt like when people were talking about abolishing slavery."