Portland Street Medics describe police brutality and arrests at RNC
The Portland Street Medics, arrested and jailed during the Republican National Convention, describe the police violence and their unjust arrest in a statement. The medics were among hundreds arrested at the convention, including Democracy Now! host Amy Goodman, AP photographer Matt Rourke and numerous other journalists and medics.
"Four members of the Portland Street Medic Collective who had travelled to the RNC to provide medical care to the radical community were arrested on 9-1-2008. All are now released pending court dates in October," R. Westlund said in the Portland Street Medic statement.
"Before the arrest, the medics were following an unpermitted march around the outskirts of the boundaries of the Excel Center. The march stayed mostly to sidewalks and utilized several pedestrian trails.
"After heading nearly a mile down a bike trail with a river on one side and an unpassable bank on the other side of the road, protesters found themselves under fire from police chemical weapons, having never received an order to disperse. The protestors and the medics fled back up the bike path while the onslaught of chemical weapons and differently-lethal weapons continued behind and next to the fleeing crowd. Police in riot gear ran past the tail end of the running group, continuing to launch weapons into the crowd, forcing those at the back to run through the already dispensed weapons.
"The four medics helped with the evacuation of at least five patients, including one with a broken hand from being hit with police weaponry, one with an injured ankle from being hit with police weaponry who needed physical support to walk, and one who was blinded by pepper spray. This assistance left the medics at the very back of the crowd and among the worst victims of chemical weapons as they fled the scene.
"At the corner of Ontario and Shepard the crowd was trapped in a park by lines of riot police and all people in the park, including those holding tickets to a concert and attempting to utilize the pedestrian bridges to get to the concert, were arrested. Those with misdemeanors were released later that night, while those being held on felonies were in jail for 48 hours.
"Three of the Portland Medics, David Drew, Jr, Tracy Maier, and R. Westlund are charged with Misdemeanors in the 1st degree of "presence at an unlawful assembly and refusing to leave." They face 90 days in jail and fines up to $1,000. The fourth, A. Oliver Hayes, is charged with a Gross Misdemeanor in the 3rd degree of rioting, and faces one year in jail and a fine of $1,000.
"Later in the week, a group of six medics, three of them from Portland, were again the targets of police misconduct. A group of 350 people were being detained and preparing to be arrested on a bridge. The group included some legal observers from the NLG and 12 Street Medics. Medic Dispatch received news that the legal observers in the group had been released prior to the arrest, so the six medics headed out to see if they could negotiate with the police for the release of the medics.
"Upon arrival at the scene one of the Portland Medics spoke with an officer and received a phone number for "Watch Command" to begin negotiations. On the first phone call, the medic explained the job of the medics and explained that they were asking for the release of the medics detained on the bridge. The medic gave WC their full legal name and offered to provide proof of credentials as an EMT. WC offered to give the request to the commander at the scene and then call the medics back.
"After a reasonable amount of time, the medic called WC back to check on the status. WC questioned the location of the medics, and the medic confirmed that they were at the scene of the arrest before ending the phone call to wait for further news.
"The medic attempted to speak with two officers on scene, but neither would produce a supervisor to do the negotiations. Moments after the second attempt, while the Medic Liaison was making another call to WC, one of the Portland Medics was pulled out of the crowd of observers and drug into the street by four police officers. The medic's pockets were searched while the medic stated, "I do not consent to this search." While still searching this medic, the commanding officer led four more officers into the crowd and pulled out the Medic Liaison, who had been on the phone moments before. The first medic was released back into the crowd after their pockets were searched.
"The second medic was questioned as to why they were carrying a backpack and hip pack. The medic explained their status as an EMT and allowed officers to take their registration card as proof. Officers explained, "You reached your hands in your pockets, and that makes us nervous, so now we have to check what you're up to." The medic repeatedly denied consent for the search but officers began opening the medic kits regardless. An officer asked, "Where did you get all this stuff? Did you steal it off the ambulance?" The medic responded, "I'm not going to answer any more of your questions until I speak to my lawyer." The officer replied, "In that case, you can pick your own shit up off the ground," and began opening ziplock bags and dumping medical supplies on the ground.
"During the search, officers repeatedly made threats about possible criminal charges against the medic, including "medical terrorism." Officers dumped the entire contents of both medical kits on the ground, purposefully stepped on the equipment, read all the aftercare flyers and made threats about "testing the pepper spray" on this medic, and searched the medic's body and clothing three separate times in an extremely rough and inappropriate manner. After running the medic's ID through the system, the officers ordered to medic to clean up all the supplies, and accused the medic of littering when a small packet of vitamins was overlooked on the ground. Once the supplies were repacked, the medic was free to go.
"These police actions were not based on any reasonable suspicion of wrongdoing. The police were targeting the medics who were attempting to liaise with commanding officers and harassing them in order to reduce their power and prevent further negotiating tactics."