Downtown Portland, Part II: An Injured Friend. Guest Reblog from Blatant Calm
TL;DR: Street medic shot in the back by Portland Police at multiple protests, once causing severe injury. This is her story.
Photo Credit: Teri Melton, taken Tuesday. July 21
My last post examined the disparity between what is happening in Portland and what is reported by the news media, law enforcement, and the administration.
There are some who feel I unfairly lay most of the blame on the city and federal officers for the escalating violence and injury to both property and people. Some believe the city and federal officers are justified in their actions, and that those who are breaking no laws have nothing to fear or be concerned about.
Journalists and protest medics have been targeted by the police since before the feds arrived in Portland.
Doubt this to be true? I want to share the personal story of someone I know. She’s a talented musician and artist, volunteer for multiple creative arts organizations, Gilman Scholarship recipient, 4.0 student, and a published poet. Not only is she my friend, she is also the daughter of a junior high and high school classmate and dear friend of mine.
I will refer to her as “Z.” All the following text in italics are her own words.
This will be a lengthy article in 4 parts:
Part I. Z’s Participation in the Portland Protests
Part II. Z’s Injuries
Part III. Non-Lethal Weapons”
Part IV. Conclusion – What You Can Do
Feel free to post, share, and forward this article if you are so moved.
Part I. Z’s Participation in the Portland Protests
Z has attended about half of the daily protests (she estimates about 30 total). She has participated in protests both prior and after the unbidden arrival of federal enforcers. Her primary goal all along has been to provide basic first aid.
“I go out as an unmarked street medic. I avoid having the red crosses anywhere on my person to avoid getting targeted by police and federal agents. It’s been a while since I’ve been fully CPR certified, so I can offer basic first aid and eye wash (the most common need on the front lines) but not full blown 911/first response type care.”
Beyond sometimes joining in some of the chants, her primary focus is to offer care to fellow protesters:
“When I’m protesting, I generally keep my focus on first aid and protestor safety. However, I join in chants. I chant ‘QUIT YOUR JOB!’ amongst many other things. I don’t carry signs because I need use of both of my hands should anyone need first aid attention.”
Z has been shot more than once in the back with rubber bullets and clubbed on the head with a baton.
“When I was hit with the rubber bullet, me and the other protesters were retreating from a front line of police after they deployed tear gas, pepper bullets, flash bangs, and rubber bullets into the crowd. I had my back turned to them, was walking in the direction they were requesting of the protestors and was shot. This is pretty common. As soon as anything is declared an ‘unlawful assembly’ or a ‘riot’ the police/feds will not stop firing munitions until the entire crowd is dispersed and most of the people go home. They single out people who stay late and either arrest, detain, or beat them.”
“Every time I’ve been hurt (at least when it hasn’t been by tear gas or pepper spray) I’ve had my back to police and they have either shot at me or hit me in the head with a baton.
Folks have started chanting ‘don’t turn your back on them’ as things get spicy down there now as a protective measure.”
Photo credit: Reuters news photo captioned “A federal law enforcement officer pushes a mother back during a demonstration against the presence of federal law enforcement officers and racial inequality in Portland, Oregon, U.S., July 21, 2020. REUTERS/Caitlin Ochs TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY”
Some might ask whether Z could be perceived as a threat to law enforcement. She is 5’1” (155cm) and 105 lbs. (47.6 kg). Although she did not see the officer who shot her, the one who hit her in the head with a baton she estimates to have been at least 5’11” (180cm).
Part II. Z’s Injuries
One of the protests where Z was hit was on June 2. That night she was shot in the tail bone with a rubber bullet. She thought she could manage and heal on her own, but the pain increased and a visit to the doctor a few days later didn’t help. After two weeks immobilized with debilitating pain, she dragged herself to the ER where it was determined she had developed a severe infection.
“I’ve had tailbone injuries before, so I figured with appropriate icing and keeping weight off the injury, I would be okay. The pain, swelling, and (eventually) infection got increasingly severe over the course of the following two weeks. Somewhere in the middle of those two weeks I went to the doctor for X-Rays and an exam. The doctor didn’t look at the wound, said I was fine, and sent me home with instructions to take Tylenol for the pain. Mind you, I had arrived at that visit with a fever (as a response to the blood infection) and complaints about inability to eat, sleep, or defecate. That experience left me feeling confused about the severity of the injury and ultimately informed my hesitancy to take myself to the ER.”
“At the peak of my infection, I could hardly make it to the car to get to the hospital, even with help or crutches.”
“The pain of a blood infection is something I had yet to experience also – it was so intense. I legitimately had a moment prior to asking my roommate to drive me to the hospital where I felt something very deep and intuitive within me say, ‘If you don’t get yourself serious help for this FAST you will die.’ It was a very mortal moment. I don’t think I’ve ever felt that fragile, or truly exposed to my own mortality, in my life. It definitely redefined by pain limit, that’s for sure.”
“The rubber bullet didn’t break [the] skin, but there was significant internal bleeding that became severely infected. When I admitted myself to the ER, the surgeon who was preparing me for surgery said that had I waited 24-48 hours longer to seek help I would have needed extensive blood transfusions. They also told me the infection was deep and progressive enough that it was visibly ‘tracking.’ I was told the operation (which was basically just a very deep drainage) would take about 2 minutes. The infection was so deep and expansive that it took 30 minutes. The underwear and skirt that I wore into the hospital had to be tossed into a biohazard bag and thrown away because of how soaked in infection it had gotten during the operation. They put a drainage tube in the wound site, which stayed in place for two weeks after surgery. Once the tube was removed, I was permitted to go back to activities like walking and biking. I’m still working on gaining my strength back.”
[Click here for an image of Z’s drain tube warning: graphic image]
Z, convalescing post-surgery
Z has recovered sufficiently enough to attend protests. She received a baton hit to the head after the federal officers arrived, but she is adamant that her injuries were all inflicted by members of the Portland Police Bureau (PPB):
“The tailbone injury was [prior to the arrival of the Feds], the head hit was post-Fed. But both injuries were carried out by the PPB, who claim not to be working with one another, but have been employing each other’s tactics in very noticeable ways (ie: bull rushes, combining tear gas and mace to use en masse in large crowds, etc.)”
Despite her injuries from the PPB, she agrees that the arrival of the uninvited federal enforcers has significantly resulted in larger protests and an escalation in tensions.
“The crowds at the Justice Center had dwindled significantly before July 4th and DEFINITELY got reinvigorated once the federal occupation happened.”
Z also has witnessed a lot of troubling evidence that the Portland Police and the federal enforcers are collaborating and supporting each other:
“The PPB and Feds are not supposed to be working together, but there are a lot of personal accounts and evidence that suggest otherwise.
One tactic I’ve seen (and experienced) is that the Feds at the Justice Center will excessively gas the park (the area where protestors gather, where houseless folks have tents set up, and where free food, clothing, and other resources are available), pushing the crowds into downtown areas where then (miraculously) the PPB are waiting at various intersections to continue gassing, macing, shooting projectiles, and corralling the protestors as they try to get away from federal gassing.”
Photo credit: David J. Loftus. One of the tents in the protest support camp near of SW Third across from the federal courthouse. The report is that the feds specifically attacked the camp last night (July 21st)– classic disruption of military supply-line tactics — with pepper spray and tear gas. – David J. Loftus
“There were a lot of elders in the crowd last I was in one of those situations as well – the majority of the first aid I was providing that night was for men aged 45-75, most of them appearing to be closer to the 65-75 range.”
Part III. “Non-Lethal Weapons”
Z’s experience shows the danger so-called “non-lethal weapons” pose. Commonly used to control crowds and riots, non-lethal weapons can inflict significant and, in some cases, permanent serious injury, or death. This is especially the case when wielded by people who are poorly trained and/or not using the weapons as intended.
‘Less lethal’ can still maim and kill: A visual guide to weapons police use on protesters – USA Today [Warning, graphic images]
Part IV. Conclusion – What You Can Do
- City and federal officers have been using excessive amounts of so-called non-lethal weapons on protesters
- City and federal officers have been using these non-lethal weapons improperly, either because of lack of training, a sense of impunity for their actions, or a combination of both.
- City and federal officers have been targeting journalists and those providing medical aid to protesters.
- My friend Z presented no threat to anyone, caused or threatened to cause no damage to property, was offering medical aid, followed official orders to retreat, yet was targeted and injured on several occasions, gravely injured on one occasion.
What you can do:
Demand federal officers leave Portland. Both Oregon Senators and two Oregon Representative have denounced the “politically-motivated authoritarian tactics.” Contact your members of Congress to in support of the removal of the Feds.
Call for the banning of the use of tear gas. Seattle’s City Council recently voted to ban police use of tear gas and choke holds. Urge your city to follow suit! The use of tear gas is banned in war under Chemical Weapons Convention and the 1925 Geneva Protocol, but it is still legal for use in law enforcement.
Organizations Z Suggests you Support:
I asked Z what she recommended people who want to support to do. She suggested these organizations to support:
She has high praise for Teressa Raiford and Don’t Shoot PDX
“This person is crowdfunding to distribute respirators to protesters on the ground level as well- prioritizing BIPOC, Moms, Dads, and Elders”
She provided these links for organizations that are helping:
Z’s Educational Suggestions:
Z stresses the importance of educating yourself on the issues. Here are her recommendations:
Arresting Power: Resisting Police Violence in Portland, Oregon
Z says: “Arresting Power is a documentary specifically about the history of police brutality to Oregon, and gives very necessary insight into exactly how and why the police have behaved, and continue to behave, the way they do.”
Be safe, keep secure, and do the right thing.