DENVER (CBS4) — There are plenty of videos on YouTube of people spraying themselves in the face with pepper spray — but most of them aren’t congressional campaign ads.
Levi Tillemann, a Democratic candidate for Colorado’s 6th congressional district, on Denver’s east side, did just that.
Tillemann’s video has had hundreds of thousands of views on YouTube that he hopes translate into votes.
“Trust me. This will stop anyone in their tracks,” Tillemann says just before he sprays a canister of pepper spray in his eyes, leaving a yellow liquid dripping down his face.
The painful stunt was a response to proposals to arm educators to defend classrooms in the event of a school shooting.
“I’ve had enough of Democrats and Republicans talking past each other on gun control as kids, schools and communities pay the price in blood,” Tilleman wrote on YouTube. “That’s why I’ve worked with my team to develop a plan for active school defense measures. We absolutely need to fix America’s gun problem, but that might take a while. Let’s stop talking and start doing. We can protect students and teachers today.”
Tillemann is advocating for “non-lethal self-defense tools” for teachers. He sprayed himself in the face with pepper spray to demonstrate how effectively it can impair a person’s vision — and leave them in agonizing pain.
Tillemann says he shot the video to draw attention to his idea of arming teachers with pepper spray, “We had to do something that was kind-of spectacular. We wanted to highlight the efficacy of pepper spray as one of a number of potential non-lethal self-defense tools that we can arm teachers and classrooms with as a last resort.” Tillemann admits he’s gotten a lot of feedback, “We expected all reactions. We’re action people, we’re solution people, we’re doers and if you have a better solution, bring it to us and we’ll make a video on that.”
After spraying himself, Tilleman dunks his head in a bucket of soapy solution and uses a garden hose to flush his eyes.
“It’s just unbearable, it’s like lava in your eyes,” Tilleman says.
The video is titled “This Will Save Lives.”
Tillemann says it accomplished his goal, “I think it’s done exactly what we wanted it to do. It sparked a really important conversation.”
His opponent Jason Crow has a lot of ideas, “Universal background checks, magazine limitations, closing the gun show loophole…”
Crow says the ad – that includes gun statistics scrolling over the video – minimizes the seriousness of school violence, “I think it’s a stunt that distracts from our ability to have meaningful discussion on the issue.”
Tillemann is running against Democrat Jason Crow in the June 26 primary. If he wins, he will go on to fight for the seat currently held by Republican Michael Coffman.