Wednesday, June 30, 2010

When the blood started to flow

First appeared on http://openfile.ca/blog/g20-reflections-when-blood-started-flow

An older version at http://www.j-source.ca/english_new/detail.php?id=5308 has a great comment you should definitely read.



Posted by Bethany Horne on Wednesday, June 30, 2010

On Saturday, I witnessed what I think was the first instance of G20-related violence that day, at Queen St. W. and John St. This was before the black bloc split off from the march. A group called No One Is Illegal, which was protesting against immigration policies in G20 countries, tried to break off from the larger group.

In previous interviews with me, No One Is Illegal talked about how the security fence around the world leaders was a symbol of the fences and borders that oppress people every day. For them, it was an important strategy to approach the fence and protest it directly. However, their attempt to move down the street to the fence was blocked by police who didn't hesitate to use batons against those at the front of the march. First one, then another fell to the blows of the police batons.
I was with a good friend who has medical training and helped her get the first man who was injured out of the way of the advancing police line. We had to yell to make our way through the crowd. From the relative safety of the opposite sidewalk, we called for those who were helping the other wounded to bring them to us. I held the man as blood poured out of his head, down his face and onto my friend’s jacket. It drip, drip, dripped onto my pants.

My friend, who could see the man's skull through the deep gash, covered the wound with gauze and told him to hold it. Calls to 911 were fruitless: the ambulance never came. Another man with a head wound next to me was going into shock. The medics with him loudly asked the crowd marching past us to give us any extra clothing they had on in order to cover him and help hold his spinal column steady. People threw us their extra sweaters and t-shirts. The man's eyes stared into nothingness, flickered and glassed over. No ambulance came for half an hour. We called 911 I don’t know how many times. I approached police officers dressed in the green jackets of "Community Relations" and asked them to intervene, to let medical help through the blockades they had set up along all sides of the street. They said they could do nothing.
By that point the march had long ago passed us by. But we heard that police had deployed tear gas and the tail end of the march was doubling back and coming through where we were. We had to make a decision. We decided to move the injured, even though there was a risk of exacerbating any spinal injuries they might have.

We held the first man with the head gash between us and walked him, and another less-woozy guy, to Mount Sinai Hospital, a kilometre or so away. We left the man who was almost unconscious behind with three medics. They were going to use five people to try to move him into a van in order to get him someplace where an ambulance would pick him up. I know it took them a long, long time to accomplish that. We all thought he was going to die. He didn't. (for a full tale of what happened to him, check the comments at the j-source link, above).

The man my friend and I walked to the hospital had weak vital signs and in the end required seven stitches on his head. He couldn't have been any older than 23. I still can't understand why police thought they needed to deal with him in this way.

1 comment:

Kent said...

There was a period earlier in my life when I participated in a number of demonstrations (civil rights, Vietnam). I remember that in the very first one a terrified (and pissed off) truck driver almost drove cement truck right over a guy who refused to move. Later, I saw a crowd break out into a senseless frenzy of of vandalism at an ROTC office on my college campus. I was in a peace demonstration in Washington DC that was very similar to the one depicted in Forrest Gump. Military helicopters hovered above the crowd with machine guns at the ready. Sandbags and more machine guns in front of most government offices. Thank God no one was shot that day.
Not long after that, however, my peers and I were outraged when four young people were shot to death during a demonstration at Kent State University (a few miles from my home town at the time).

I was probably just about as outraged as your are about what happened at the G20 (of course outrage is hard to measure).

Now, 40 years later, I see things from a different perspective. When police get sent out to stop people from approaching an area, they can either a. let people pass or b. take some sort of action. I think that a. is rarely an option. There were no cops present at the concrete truck incident and nonetheless it came very close to creating a fatality. No cops present at the ROTC office and a bunch of senseless damage happened. I also saw people throwing stuff and breaking windows in a way that could have easily caused serious injuries. Thank God that didn't happen that day.

Now I see that often police are required to attempt crowd control.
Fortunately, in the U.S. police mostly really do try to avoid creating injuries, much less fatalities. However, if warnings and a show of force don't work, the police go to the next level which is batons, tear gas, and so called rubber bullets. People often get hurt. During my life time I do not believe there has been an incident
where police intentionally fired lethal round into a crowd. Several of the National Guard fired their weapons at Kent State. From what I read, they probably panicked. At least one or two of the students killed were not in the crowd. The bullets had been fired over the crowds heads and randomly hit folks far from the scene.

Well this already probably qualifies as the longest comment in history. But as the years have passed and I have seen the news about many, many demonstrations, I have to believe that U.S. cops are trying very hard not to seriously hurt or kill people. If they were intentional, the results would be more like Tiananmen Square and less like what we have seen. I would imagine that Canadian police are equally disinclined to resort to lethal means.

So, my point? Just that a crowd surging up to a line of cops is very risky at anytime. It is a given. People may still choose to do street demonstrations, but they should be aware that it is inherently risky.

In this season of my life, I vastly prefer that we resolve our differences without resort to street demos. I have seen change come about that was more likely the result of debate than raucous crowds and ranks of police.