Monday, July 5, 2010

Medics at G20 protests speak out against police brutality

The mainstream media has convinced many to focus on burning police cruisers and shattered shop windows as the key images of the Toronto G20 Summit. What have largely been ignored are the chilling details of police violence on protesters and bystanders: both in terms of direct injuries on the streets and violence in detainment, the effects of which will be long-lasting.

What has also been neglected is the structural violence [1] that will result from the decisions made by the leaders who attended the G20 Summit; decisions that thousands came out to protest.

The Toronto Street Medics is an independent organization of volunteers with various levels of health training. We provided preventative health services and first aid to protesters and bystanders. Such support is not an apolitical act. We saw our actions as enabling others to exercise their right to dissent and we freely provided care to all. For many, this is linked to the principle that health is a human right. For others, this is tied to a commitment to social justice, seeing health as essential for political engagement.

We gave out water and sunscreen, but we also dealt with severe injuries. All of the serious injuries we treated were inflicted by the police. While violence against property received a great deal of coverage, violence against people -- broken bones, cracked heads and eyes filled with pepper spray - has yet to feature prominently in any mainstream media. Our teams of medics witnessed and treated people who had been struck in the head by police batons, had lacerations from police shields and had been trampled by police horses (See examples here, here, here and here).

Medics escorted several victims to nearby hospitals who were later diagnosed with concussions and fractures. Many others provided first aid, beyond the Toronto Street Medics; hence these reports are only a part of the bigger picture.

Street Medics faced barriers in many instances. We witnessed people being seriously injured behind police lines who could not be assisted. Our concern for these individuals is immense. Several medics were detained by police and intimidated, despite identifying themselves. Medical equipment, such as gauze, band aids and gloves, was confiscated. We were intimidated and made to feel that what we were doing was illegal. In fact, we were simply providing first-aid.

Further violence occurred in detention. We assisted a number of people upon their release who shared their experiences with us. People were denied basic necessities, including water, food and appropriate toilet facilities. Rights were denied, including prompt access to legal services. Access to health services, including to personal medications for chronic diseases, was curtailed. For the people we assisted, medications were not returned upon their release. People were forced to frantically seek new prescriptions and purchase medications, with at least one case of withdrawal from a medication occurring. Some experienced sexual violence while in detention and many have reported symptoms of anxiety and trauma.


No comments:

Post a Comment