Local People Say CMPD’s Chemical Irritants Induced Menstrual Bleeding Hours After Exposure
CHARLOTTE, N.C. – There is no delicate way to ease into this topic: people with uteruses are reporting that after being exposed to pepper spray or tear gas, they get painful, heavy periods within hours, no matter the time of month. “I went to the bathroom and realized I was bleeding,” says 23-year-old Nada Merghani. She says it happened a few hours after Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police gassed her during protests on May 29th, and again last week, hours after police pepper-sprayed her near the Midnight Diner. She remembers waking up and says, “I felt that sharp stinging pain in my stomach.” Merghani says the cramping was unusually painful, and she passed alarmingly large blood clots, “Maybe a little smaller than a lemon.”
It happened to a local woman named Margo too. The 20-year-old she says she didn’t even get hit directly by CMPD’s pepper spray – just breathed in the vapor – and still she says, “The next day I woke up with the worst menstrual cramps I have ever experienced. I was about two weeks into my cycle, and had no reason to be experiencing symptoms like spotting, dizziness, nausea and debilitating lower abdominal pain.”
It’s happened recently to Kristie Puckett Williams, too, after she was hit by CMPD’s chemical irritants. She says, “It was really, kinda like, the weirdest thing.” Puckett Williams also says a woman who got caught in CMPD’s kettling attack in June believes the chemical irritants used by police that night may have caused her to miscarry. Puckett Williams says, “As a result, lost a baby. And that’s still very painful for that person, they’re not willing to really speak about it.”
There is science surrounding these claims. In 2011, Chile temporarily banned its police from using tear gas on protesters after a study by the University of Chile showed the gas may cause miscarriages and harm young children.
And in July, Duke University Dr. Sven-Eric Jordt noted in a sworn affidavit that pregnant women are at high risk, and cited the group Physicians for Human Rights as noting an increase in miscarriages after tear gas used during the Arab Spring protests.
The doctor wrote, “Police departments have procured large arsenals of tear gas in recent years and deploy them earlier and in amounts much larger than before.” He continued, “The safety assumptions about tear gas are mostly based on studies from the 1950s-70s on young and healthy police and military personnel. Studies using modern epidemiological and toxicological methods are lacking.”
Dr. Jordt’s eight page affidavit is part of a lawsuit against CMPD. Attorney Darlene Harris is representing the NAACP, the ACLU of North Carolina and others in the suit. Harris says, “Legally, it really feels like David and Goliath sometimes. Because you’re dealing with such a large system, that has so many protections, so while any person would look at this and say, ‘this is crazy, this is terrible, how could they use this,’ the legal fight to actually get this out of their hands, it’s a long road.”
Attorney Tim Emry is working on the same case. He says, “There’s a reason the Geneva Convention has restrictions on how some these items can be used in warfare. And if there are concerns about it in warfare, we out to be particularly concerned about it on citizens.”
CMPD spokesman Rob Tufano confirmed the department’s use of pepper spray, but he pushed back on whether they use tear gas. He says the department has used a chemical called “CS,” which is classified, he says, as an irritant and not tear gas. However, CS is the active component in tear gas. The department will not reveal how much it has in its current stockpile.