Colorado Street Medics and the rest of the 4077 Medical Unit (the clinicians, first aid providers and allies at Occupy Denver) had our work cut out for us last week. Here’s a narrative from one medic about the events.
The week kicked off with the first major snow of the season. Temperatures dropped as low at 17 degrees and came topped with cold, wet snow. The City of Denver will not allow tents, canopies or any other structures to be erected. Furthermore, the park curfew is being strictly enforced, leaving 24/7 Occupiers to camp on the sidewalk. The 4077 Medical Unit spent a frigid snowy night with campers attempting to keep everyone warm, dry and safe. In collaboration with our friends in the Thunderdome–Occupy Denver’s kitchen which is arguably the most resilient and devoted peoples’ kitchen in existence–medics worked to improvise camping pads, wrap people in tarps, keep warm liquids available, drying wet gear and get the vulnerable and cold to safer spaces for sleeping and rewarming. In total, 5 patients were sent to the hospital. The 4077 Medical Unity is working with community members to find a more sustainable option to keep a 24/7 presence and minimize injury risks.
Before it was mentioned that the City of Denver is not allowing tents. This came to be after Occupy Denver was raided and kicked out of the State-owned Lincoln Park directly across from the State Capitol Building three weeks ago. Since then, even sight of a tent at the new location–Civic Center Park on Broadway between Colfax and 14th–brought heavy police presence. On Wednesday night, several demonstrators erected tents to protest the City’s endangerment of protesters. One man was dragged from his tent and arrested. Another demonstrator built an igloo out of snow. Twelve police officers broke the igloo down with snow shovels and arrested its occupant.
As is custom, Saturday hosted a march and gathering from Civic Center Park through downtown. Approximately 1000 people marched in the streets, playing music and making occasional stops for some to yell at pertinent buildings (the jail, the Fed) and others to have dance parties. The march went over extremely well. The assembly then headed to the Capitol steps where it was met by riot police blocking off the steps and the entrance to the building.
At the same time, civil disobedience was being mobilized to erect tents in Civic Center Park. Numerous tents were erected, including a canopy over the Thunderdome. March participants returned to the park to support this action. As tents were in the process of construction on the south side of the park, a block of riot police advanced lead by Lieutenant James Henning and, without warning, began tearing down tents and making arrests. The crowd amassed on the site.
Police responded with heavy force, striking people with batons and pepper spray. When one man was knocked to the ground after being hit in the head, a CSM medic attempted to aid him and was struck with a baton and pepper sprayed. Pepper balls were fired on demonstrators and medics. One man, who had climbed a tree to film the event, was shot out of it with pepper balls.
At one point in time, after falling to the ground, Lieutenant Henning reached for his gun while surrounded by unarmed protesters.
The events that followed were a blur. Our medical team was overwhelmed with the number of patients. Between two or three medics, we are estimating that 45 patients were treated for injuries in less than an hour, including a man that was shot in the face with a pepper ball (paint balls filled with concentrated capsaicin powder) and was sent to the hospital for treatment. This does not count numerous pepper spray patients that allies trained to do eyewashes assisted.
Medics also had a difficult time treating patients because other participants were not supporting them and their space. Medics reported being grabbed, picked up and pushed off of their patients. Furthermore, untrained individuals were promoting false and dangerous information such as using baby shampoo and vinegar for eye washes. One medic was nearly assaulted by such an individual when they explained this was not safe practice. Self proclaimed medical providers without street experience screamed at medics as they attempted to evacuate, treat and calm patients.
Once this situation diffused, police waited for several hours to advance on the second half of the camp. They approached the north side in full riot gear including gas masks armed with tear gas canisters, pepper spray and more pepper balls. Ten people were arrested in front of the Thunderdome.
After the demonstration several medics provided hospital support for community members that were arrested and suffered injuries. Colorado Street Medics received several reports from jail that arrestees were not receiving medical treatment for injuries.
Following this weekend, Colorado Street Medics and the 4077 Medical Team have identified acute needs to support this movement.
1. Support from the community when we are treating patients. The best thing you can do is form a circle around us, give our patients privacy and keep others away. There are many people with other medical training that can be of help, but in an emergency, we need to be able to treat our patients without others interfering.
2. Promote solid information. Street Medic Wiki has extensive information available for you to read and do self care. Be aware that reading materials does not make you a Street Medic. Also, reference this post for our Chemical Weapons 101. Assume all other treatments are false and dangerous until you get a chance to research them or talk to Street Medics.
3. Get trained as a medic. Our next training is November 19 and 20. We need medics, but we need them to have the right skill set. Please come, even if you don’t intend to run as a medic, so that you have the information. Email zoethemedic(a)gmail.com for info.
5. Donate to us. We need supplies. We need money. We need people to be volunteer patients for our medic training. We need food for our medic training. We need help transporting and sorting supplies. There are so many Email zoethemedic(a)gmail.com for info.
Finally, it is imperative that we thank our allies that were with us in the streets, working the legal line, serving up food, gathering supplies, filming the events, representing folks in court, doing court watch, bailing people of out jail and the other incredibly hard work, not only this Saturday, but as a prolonged support effort for Occupy Denver. Thanks to Denver ABC, West Denver Copwatch, The Thunderdome and National Lawyer’s Guild.