Eyewitness: Police Brutality at the RNC - Street Medics
"... the pair of Portland Medics came across a man running backwards, wrapping a woman's cut open and bleeding hand while they both yelled for a medic. The medics took over the patient and the man disappeared into the crowd. The 20-second pause to attempt an evaluation of the patient's hand resulted in the police behind gaining ground and having a chance to deploy more chemical weapons. The medics began running again, patient in tow, one medic guiding her while the other finished the wrapping job on her hand. While doing this, the medics came upon a young man limping and yelling for help, 'I can't run! Help!'"
The eyewitness account attested here by R. Westlund, a Portland Street Medic and trained Emergency Medical Technician (EMT), depicts some of the astounding incidents that occured during the Peace demonstrations at the Minneapolis-St. Paul RNC that defy all sense of reason. It documents violations of social normalcy and degradation of the most basic of community values and principles by any standard or definition: medics brutalized, humiliated, abused and arrested for the crime of providing medical treatment to the injured.
It is not accidental that Amnesty International has issued an alert for "Disproportionate Use of Force Against RNC Protesters" and is calling for impartial investigations by authorities into the ill-treatment of prisoners and other abuses, plus a review of police tactics and weapons that were used against the demonstrations. The Amnesty report also notes that police actions appear to be in breach of United Nations standards on the use of force by law enforcement officials, in addition to U.S. laws:
Use of Force Against RNC Protesters "Disproportionate," Charges Amnesty International
Despite the Empire's sadistic Robocops, despite the War Machine churning in the basement whose roiling turbulence drives the country's economy and dominates the entire planet with genocidal butchery, Street Medics will continue risking their own safety and liberty to help out the ill and injured wherever the Peace and Justice movement takes initiative through community mobilizations and actions toward broad and radical social change. But we need your help.
Here's what we're up against:
Chemical warfare against Flower Girl
Police attacking peaceful crowds, journalists and legal observers; bodies on the ground; never enough Street Medics (video by the Associated Press)
Flash bombs, concussion grenades, smoke bombs, rubber bullets, wooden bullets, bean bag shots, pepper ball bullets and chemical warfare against peaceful people
How to help the Street Medics:
We need to raise funds for legal defence, bail money, and to replace medical supplies and personal items confiscated illegally by the Police - our losses are already in the thousands of dollars. If you can, please give generously here:
If you would like to donate by other means (check, cash, supplies, etc), please get in touch with us at this address
so that we can make arrangements.
We need volunteers willing and capable to help out with desk work, research, media work, writing and publishing, contacts with people (especially and including handling contacts with legal defence, fundraising, community organizing). Please write to this address
Many, many thanks to all of you for all the love and support we've been receiving!
Portland Street Medics, TT
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Firsthand account by a Portland Street Medic assisting folks at the RNC
by R. Westlund, firstname.lastname@example.org
Monday, September 1st, 2008. St Paul, MN
Entered Shepard Rd at 4:00pm, these medics taken into custody around 6:00pm.
Two Portland Medics were following the front of an unpermitted march around the Excel Center. The march stayed primarily to the sidewalks and pedestrian trails from its beginning at the capitol to the bike trail along the river and Shepard Rd.
One side of Shepard Rd has train tracks and steep hills or fences leading to the back of buildings connected to the Excel Center. Along this line National Guardsmen were posted every 15 or 20 feet, all armed, some with working dogs at their sides. On the other side of the bike trail is the river, where at least two armed Coast Guard boats followed alongside the march.
The cross street of Jackson had two lines of riot police blocking it. Marchers at the front carrying banners stepped into the street, ready to head up Jackson toward the downtown area. Before they were in the center of the street, police shot canisters at them. After a short pause, the canisters would pop, hiss and release a colored gas. At least four of these were fired as marchers retreated to the sidewalk.
Once on the sidewalk, marchers paused and began to regroup. Having not received a dispersal order for the streets or the bike trail, the assumption was that the bike trail was a safe place to return to. Without pause, the police continued their assault of canisters which let out colored gas and also began deploying concussion grenades into the crowd on the sidewalk.
Medics frequently operate in a prevention role. As such, the two Portland Medics near the front of the crowd stayed in their position on the bike trail when marchers began retreating from the police weapons, calling to the crowd to walk and stay calm. Within a minute, the Medics realized that the sidewalk was also under assault and was no longer a safe place to be. The pair turned and headed back up the bike trail with the other folks.
Believing in the medic creed of never needing to run, the pair initially attempted to keep walking and keep the crowd slow and calm around them. Unfortunately, the pair soon realized the asking this group to slow down was violating the number one medic creed of Do No Harm, because the assault of differently-lethal weapons was coming on faster than the crowd was moving.
As the pair of medics broke into a run, they watched police in riot gear passing them in the streets, running alongside the crowd and continuing to fire tear gas canisters and concussion grenades parallel to the moving crowd. The result of this was folks toward the back of the crowd having to run through fully-formed plumes of tear gas. Any attempt by the crowd to slow down to allow the tear gas to dissipate was met with pepper spray from the officers running up the bike trail behind the crowd.
During the evacuation the pair of Portland Medics came across a man running backwards, wrapping a woman's cut open and bleeding hand while they both yelled for a medic. The medics took over the patient and the man disappeared into the crowd. The 20-second pause to attempt an evaluation of the patient's hand resulted in the police behind gaining ground and having a chance to deploy more chemical weapons. The medics began running again, patient in tow, one medic guiding her while the other finished the wrapping job on her hand.
While doing this, the medics came upon a young man limping and yelling for help, "I can't run! Help! I can't run any faster!" under the Roberts St overpass. One medic left the woman and spoke with the man while still moving. He stated he had been hit in the ankle by a gas canister, and on request pulled his pants up to show his ankle. His skin, pant leg and shoe had green paint on them and his ankle appeared purple underneath. His friends, too scared to stay and help, turned him over to the care of the medics and ran with the crowd. The medics each pulled one of his arms over their shoulders and started forward again, with one medic still holding the uninjured arm of the female patient, giving her aftercare instructions to the tune of, "when we can stop running, come back and let me look at that!"
While evacuating these two patients the medics realized they needed a chance to decontaminate. Chemical weapons were still being deployed to the side and in front of, and behind the folks at the end of the running mass. The medics pulled off their goggles, nitrile gloves, and handkerchiefs to change to new ones while still running with these patients.
Realizing that there was no safe zone to any side, including forward, where more chemical weapons were being deployed, the medics began to think about other options for the patients who couldn't keep up with the fleeing crowd. One of the medics, having previously acted as a police negotiator with success on behalf of patients, was thinking about turning around and negotiating with police to let the two medics and two patients stop and get out of the chemical weapons zone. When that medic, wearing no protective gear and still moving forward, turned to gauge the amount of time to prepare for police negotiations, an officer less than 8 feet away sprayed from the pepper spray canister he was already aiming and covered half of the medic's face.
The medic turned away from the spray and ran into a pillar of the Wabasha St overpass. The pair of medics saw a team of three medics, two of them from Portland Medics, also under the overpass, where they had paused to treat patients. The severely pepper sprayed medic was now a blind patient. One of the Portland Medics from the trio came over to help the buddy evacuate the blind medic, leaving the others to work as a pair.
One medic kept offering to flush the eyes of the now-blind medic, but with police continuing to advance there was no opportunity to stop. Chemical weapons continued to be fired at the crowd from several sides.
The blinded medic was aware of the movements and sounds of the crowd. At one point, the crowd stopped moving forward and began moving side to side in panic. One of the medics assisting the blinded medic later explained that the police had moved across in front of a portion of the crowd, blocking their escape on three sides with riot police firing chemical weapons and on the fourth side with Coast Guard boats armed with machine guns.
For no reason known to the medics, the police moved their front line and again forced the crowd to run forward with chemical weapons being deployed behind and to the side of them. The three medics were able to flee fast enough to increase their distance from the police. Entering the park, the medics attempted to stop and flush the eyes of the blinded medic, feeling safer there than on the sidewalk and believing the police would not continue pushing the crowd in the park. Before being able to flush the medic's eyes, the police were noted to be approaching, still holding chemical weapons. The medics picked up their flushing supplies and moved further into the park. Finding another spot further from the police, the medics were able to flush the eyes of the injured medic. Within moments of finishing that task, the patient with the injured hand was located in the park.
The three Portland Medics did an evaluation of this patient's hand at this point and realized the seriousness of the injury. When making plans to transport this patient to the wellness center for further evaluation, the medics realized that the park was surrounded by bike, horse and riot police. The medic who acts as police negotiator and a buddy walked toward the bike police, holding out a badge and repeated, "I am an EMT. I need to speak to someone. Who can talk to me?" Several bike officers frowned and shook their heads, waving the medics away. The medics continued up the line, being motioned to come no closer than about 30 feet, repeating, "I am an EMT. I have a patient with a serious injury. I need to have her taken to a clinic." The police repeatedly waved the medics back into the crowd with threatening motions.
The medics returned to the patient and explained that they were unable at that point to have her removed from the scene, but that, with legal observers for support, they were going to try again. Before that could happen, the police began making announcements, stating that everyone was under arrest and was to sit down with their hands on their heads.
While waiting to be arrested, the medics sat with the patient and continued giving her care advice, such as keeping the hand elevated and asking to be handcuffed in the front instead of behind, as well as advising her to advocate for herself by stating that she had been seen by two EMT's and that she needs further medical care.
The five medics described herein were all sitting together waiting to be arrested and continued their medic work of spreading calm and educating folks about how to take care of themselves. The medics passed out food to those who were hungry and advised that folks stop drinking water if they thought they might have to urinate in the next few hours. The medics talked about what it might be like in jail, how long folks could expect to be in, made sure that everyone had the legal support phone number committed to memory with a silly mnemonic, and told everyone around how much they were loved and how important they are as people.
When arrested, the police moved in in groups of 8-10 and would ask a person from the front of the crowd to stand up. The person would be handcuffed and walked by a pair of officers across the park to wait in a line for a photo and to be searched before being loaded on the bus. When the police got to the section where the Portland Medics were sitting, they took folks out one by one in no particular order. All the medics were removed before the patient, and they lost track of her at that point until all were released from jail several days later.
Several of the medics were questioned while standing in line with their arresting officers. Some of the questions were, "When did you arrive in the city? Did you come here for the RNC?" and "Who came with you to the city?" One medic was asked, "Were you in the tear gas? Did it work?" All the medics were questioned extensively about their medic kits, including such questions as "Why would you carry this?" and "Are you sure there aren't weapons hidden in here?"
One of the medics from the original pair reported to the arresting officers that the medic has chronic joint problems and requested to be handcuffed in the front. The officer refused but stated there would be a chance in "a bit" to ask a superior officer. During the 50-minute wait in line, that medic repeatedly identified themself as an EMT and repeatedly informed the officer that the handcuffs were causing pain. The medic twice requested medical attention. When the medic had a chance to have the handcuffs moved to the front, the supervising officer who made the move cinched one cuff down into the skin, causing instant numbness in the thumb and pinky. The medic pointed this out to the arresting officer, who shrugged and said, "He's the supervisor."
After another 15 minutes in line, being searched and having a photo taken, the medic was moved onto a bus where one of the other medics was already seated. In tears, the medic informed the other, "I can't feel my left hand." The second medic looked at the hand, then requested to the officer on the bus to loosen the cuff. The officer looked at it and took out the tool used to cut plasticuffs off, but had trouble fitting the tool in between the skin and the cuff. After several adjustments the tool was pressed into the skin to be slipped under the cuff.
The red lines in the skin where the cuff had been remained for over 12 hours. As of this writing, exactly 72 hours after having the cuffs removed, the medic still does not have feeling to the outside of the thumb and the outside of the pinkie on the left hand.
While that medic was in line having paperwork filled out, a supervising officer came around checking on the process. The arresting officer pointed to a check box next to a felony charge of rioting, and asked, "Are we doing this one?" The supervisor looked at the box, shrugged, looked at the officer and replied, "Nah, not anymore."
The first medic onto the bus, the other of the original pair, was originally held on a felony. After being held for 40 hours without charges, the medic was finally charged with a Gross Misdemeanor in the 3rd degree of rioting. At the arraignment, the medic was accused by the prosecutor of throwing various objects at the police. The prosecutor then asked for the maximum bail considering the "nature of the charges and the out of state residency." The judge set the bail at the maximum of $2,000. Bail was posted during the 47th hour and the medic was released during the 50th hour.
The four Portland Medics face the following charges-
One is charged with a Gross Misdemeanor in the 3rd degree of rioting. This carries a maximum penalty of 1 year in jail and a $1,000 fine.
The other three are charged with a Misdemeanor in the 1st degree of "Presence at an unlawful assembly and refusing to leave." This carries a maximum penalty of 90 days in jail and a $1,000 fine.
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