Members of the famed Progressive “Squad” in the U.S. House of Representatives are arguably the most influential members of their caucus, and they have taken it upon themselves to go after companies and individuals they believe directly or indirectly fuel violence and social injustice. Their targets include Republican congressional candidate Cory Mills and his Florida-based company, PACEM Defense, LLC.
The Floridian has unearthed a June 10, 2021 letter written by several members of the House Oversight Committee relating to an open investigation into the use of tear gas on “non-violent protestors exercising their First Amendment rights.”
The letter, which demands that PACEM and two other U.S. manufacturers of “tear gas” furnish documentation about the “safety of tear gas products,” was written and signed by Reps. Jamie Raskin, Raja Krishnamoorthi, Cori Bush, and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez
“These products have routinely been deployed on non-violent protestors exercising their First Amendment rights,” the Members wrote. “People should not have to worry that if they attend a non-violent protest, are in the vicinity of law enforcement action, or are medical workers assisting injured individuals, they may be exposed to poison with unknown effects.”
The Oversight Committee members’ concerns come on the heels of the prior year’s nationwide riots that were incited by the police-involved murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
The use of tear gas is commonly used by law enforcement to disperse crowds that pose or could pose a risk to others, and that could cause property damage. We saw tear gas used during the 2014-2015 racially-charged riots in Ferguson, Missouri, and the aforementioned 2020 nationwide riots that left 30 dead, hundreds injured, and billions of dollars in property damage.
Law enforcement also used tear gas to try to disperse rioters on January 6, 2021, inside the Capitol building in Washington, D.C.
Rep. Bush, a former Black Lives Matter organizer, recently told POLITICO that she has been working closely with her colleagues to press Mr. Mills and his company on how they plan to “get this weapon of war” off American streets.
“Manufacturers have continued to profit off its sale, and law enforcement agencies have had free rein to use it against protesters across the country. This unregulated, violent, and deadly chemical weapon can cause long-lasting health damage to community members, including asthma, respiratory failure, and even death,” said Bush. “That’s why I’ve been working closely with the Oversight Committee & Chairwoman Maloney to get answers from Mr. Mills and PACEM on what specific steps they plan to take to get this weapon of war off our streets.”
“I am concerned about the widespread domestic use of tear gas as a riot-control agent. This is a product that has been banned from use in war as a chemical weapon and that no federal agency has ever determined to be safe to use on humans, and yet we allow companies like PACEM to manufacture and sell tear gas products for widespread use,” stated Krishnamoorthi.
The Floridian spoke to Rep. Ilhan Omar and other members of the “Squad” this week, where she concurred with Rep. Bush about questioning Mills. She added that tear gas should be banned because of the “immediate and dangerous impact,” not to mention the “lasting effects” that it could have on Americans that have been exposed to it.
“It has an immediate and dangerous impact on people who are practicing their First Amendment rights in our country, because to decent is protected by the First Amendment,” said Rep. Omar.
In response to our request for comment, Mr. Mills reiterated his support of law enforcement.
“I have always supported ALL Law Enforcement, including correctional officers, and will continue to do so. We support funding the police, not defunding them, as well as our brave servicemen and women of the Armed Forces,” said Mills in a statement to The Floridian.
In direct response to the Oversight Committee letter penned by Reps. Bush and Ocasio-Cortez, and to Rep. Omar’s comments, Mills stated the following:
Our company was proud to support law enforcement officers during the 2020 riots and help supply them with less lethal equipment to quell the violence against innocent citizens, looting of businesses, and vandalism of homes.
Products like tear gas are sanctioned and utilized by the Department of Defense and state and federal health departments. They are used on a daily basis to train our military personnel and LEO’s. Each officer or military member, who utilizes these irritants, must experience these irritants prior to certification.
I for one, am thankful that our officers have less lethal options available to ensure order and preserve lives.
Mills is running for Congress in Florida’s 7th congressional district. He is currently running in a contested Republican primary race against former SEAL Brady Duke, former City of DeBary Vice Mayor Erika Benfield, State Rep., Anthony Sabatini, long-time Washington Insider Rusty Roberts, and several other candidates.