I just got this from a friend of mine who was in Quebec during the protests. It's quite long. I will separate it into several posts. I'm posting it because I think people will probably want to read it.
There is one thing I want to ask of everyone who reads it. Please, if this upsets you or gets you fired up, use your energies constructively. Please don't waste your energies and Mudcat space on outrage in the forum. --Carol
I know this is long, but I think it's so important. I wasn't on the "front lines" like this woman, but the psychological effects of the weekend are well written. It's so much to process.
Dear Friends and Family,
Attached to this email you will find a letter I wrotetonight as part of my healing process, having just gotten back from the warzone in Quebec City.
Please find the time to read this, as I feel it is so important that as many people as possible know what really happened on the streets.
As most of you know, I was volunteering as a street medic and had a very traumatic experience. Please please please reply and let me know what you think of all this, and if you have questions please ask them. Also, if you feel so inclined, please spread my letter around to anyone you know.
Testimonial on the Anti-FTAA Demonstrations, April 18-22, 2001 April 24, 2001
I want to write about what I saw this weekend in Quebec City. I volunteered as a Street Medic for the anti-FTAA protests, from Wednesday afternoon until Sunday afternoon. In the course of these days I saw so much that I hope to never see again. I treated hundreds of injured people, got tear gassed, felt the effects of pepper spray, and mostly felt the kind of turmoil that a peaceful society ought not to experience.
Throughout the event medics were targeted by the police: wherever my partner and I would be treating people, tear gas canisters would land right beside us. Some medics got hit with rubber bullets. On Friday, my friend Sean was on his knees treating a patient in a tear gas cloud on the front lines, when a canister fell right under his face and exploded. He inhaled so much of it right there, then he tried to stumble to his feet only to narrowly miss a canister aimed at his head. Another canister hit the wall behind him, bounced and hit him in the back, knocking him flat. A final canister rolled by his face again and exploded.
He was rescued by another medic team and spent the next two days recuperating in the medic clinic on Cote D'Abraham. On the front lines on Friday we began treating people as the gassing began. We kept having to retreat more and more to avoid the clouds of gas. At one point a canister exploded right next to me. I can't begin to explain the agony of being hit head on with tear gas first of all it suffocates you. I began to walk very quickly, barely restraining the panic, as I coughed and choked. I thought I would die, that any minute my asthma would kick in. Everywhere we turned there were more riot cops, more gas, and no safe space to calm down and decompress. My eyes were fine, being sealed under swim goggles, but my skin was burning like fire. Finally we managed to find a corner without gas and I got my breath back. I can't explain the fear that set in afterwards I was soscared to go anywhere near the cops. But I was in Quebec to do a service treat injured people who were in pain. Now that I knew what that pain was like, I also knew I had to go back into the fray.
As we walked back into the chaos, we came upon a girl who had been hit by a canister of gas, which exploded all over her body. Medics were treating her by stripping off her clothing and pouring liquids all over her. The poor girl was crying and screaming, in so much pain. Around us were clouds and clouds of gas, and cops advancing on all sides.
The cops began shooting canisters high into the air, into the back of the crowd, where we were. In that area were only peaceful protesters; we were not up by the perimeter fence, and we were not involved in Black Bloc activities up by the front lines. Our space was full of individuals being treated for various injuries, and just trying to recuperate. Yet we were getting hit with dozens of canisters! We had to watch the sky, hoping thecanisters wouldn't land on us. We had to continually stand in the centre of the action, yelling at people to walk, walk, walk to avoid a mob scene and tramplings.
It's so hard to stand still or walk slowly when tear gas canisters at a temperature of hundreds of degrees Celsius are being shot straight at you or above your head. I broke down so many times in the fracas, because the emotion just ran so high. I thought I was either goingto die or be incapacitated or arrested. At one point we were in the middle of a city block when a fire truck came through and the protesters attacked it.
At the time I couldn't understand why, why would they attack firemen, but later on someone helped me realize that the truck was going to be used as a water cannon, so people wanted to trash it. Finally the truck went through, after having all its water emptied and the equipment taken.
Later a row of riot cops formed at one intersection, and lobbed gas canisters to block off the end of the block. There was no escape route for my partner and I and the dozen or so protesters still there. Again I began to choke and almost panic, but we ducked into a driveway. When I saw the pain the others were in the adrenaline kicked in, and I began to treat them. I didn't even think about my state, because I didn't feel it once I saw the injured people that needed my help. We managed to escape through backyards onto another block.