from Sabotage Media
To write one’s experience is a means of expression. To put it outside of oneself, and be able to understand, to regain power. If I write what I experienced Friday in Victoriaville, it’s to put a distance from what I’ve felt since, to share it for deconstructing the media discourse and misinformation, so that ultimately these events, instead of dividing and defeating us, bring us collective power.
This account is intended as a revisiting of the events surrounding a demonstrator who’s head was severely injured. I was present in the case of Alexander, the moment he found himself on the ground, until he left in an ambulance.
Little time separated the moment when the crowd control barriers fell from when the officers of the Quebec Provincial Police used tear gas projectiles. In more or less 15 minutes, those in the crowd who had no masks or scarves had to quickly step back and take refuge to avoid the drafts of tear gas. With no eye protection and because of the intense effect of the gas, I was forced to move. At times, I was completely blinded and had trouble finding my breath, I had the reflex to seek the support of demonstrators to find a safe place. I then cleaned my eyes with a solution of milk of magnesia and water, then went back to where the largest crowd was the located with a friend.
There were easily 300 to 400 people who were near the hotel; either in action, that is to say close to the police, or further back. There was an atmosphere of tension, anger, but also solidarity. The theme of challenging the power of the Liberal party wove cohesion through the crowd and support for a diversity of tactics.
All this lasted probably another 10 to 15 minutes.
So we were on Steve street near the Sonic gas station, we redirected people bothered by the tear gas so that they could get treated, and then we crossed the street, passing behind the shops on Arthabaska East street. Then we came to a grassy field behind the Naud row. There were a lot of drafts of the gas, but as it dispersed quickly, people were not affected much. At that time, there were no officers on the grounds. We decided it was a well-placed spot to observe the events and decide about what to do next. From the point where I stood, it was possible to see that there were clashes with the SQ officers on Arthabaska, again I emphasize the amount of tear gas that was launched to scare the crowd.
Then I heard people shouting that there was someone injured, to make space. I saw a group of people carrying the body of a man in his twenties. He was laid on the ground and I knelt beside him. I didn’t have a first aid kit with me, but I have first aid training so I procceded: I checked his state of consciousness, I made sure he was stable and maintained his position, I then looked to see if he had any injuries. Every stage happened very quickly. He was first clearly unconscious, he was foaming out of its mouth, he seemed about to choke. I opened his mouth and moved his tongue, he coughed and started breathing more regularly. Then I noticed that on the side of his head a large quantity of blood was flowing. I turned, moved his hair and saw the state of his ear.
At that time, I was afraid. Really afraid that something very bad was happening which was beyond me. People stepped back, seeing the wound, I felt he was dying. But I put myself in “intervention” mode. Knowing he was slightly conscious, constantly talking to him to keep him awake. I introduced myself, then I spoke to one of many who watched the scene and had a cell phone, I told him it was serious, that we needed an ambulance immediately, that he was in danger . The person called. Several people tried to reach rescue assistance during this event, and it was extremely complex to get help in a humane delay and necessary for the survival of this person.
The first person who had a first aid kit has tried to stop the bleeding with gauzes of cotton, but there was not enough material. Another person from the medical team of the event took over, a friend of the wounded also came near, we stayed together until the paramedics arrived.
The wounded had episodes of retrieving consciousness, he was restless, showed pain and panic. Around us, there were lots of noises, cries, action. I tried to reassure him verbally, I told him he had courage to stay with us, to focus on his breathing, he needed help, he was wounded at his ear, that I understoud his fear, that we were doing our best to keep him safe. I told him about his friend who was with him, his friend spoke to him, and helped to keep him lying down.
It must of been ten minutes that we were on the ground. I heard shots very close, and when I looked up I found that the SQ officers were on the grounds, they approached us by throwing tear gas. Protesters had a security perimeter around us, shouting that there was a casualty. People spoke directly to the police officers to make them understand that there was a person on the ground in serious condition. Despite my distrust of the police, my critique of their actions and behaviors, their foundations, their ideology, I still naively believed that in the urgency, they would have sufficient judgment to give us a minimum of safety. They shot tear gas canisters a few meters away from us. We had to move Alexander twice because of the incompetence of the SQ, more importantly, because of the military behavior that reflects the intensification of the violence used by the armed branch of the State. Through this chaotic situation, the officers continued to follow orders, they deliberately left us the responsibility for their actions and the management of the situation while we could not provide the necessary care.
At some point, when we first moved Alexander, he tried to talk to us. He was unable to utter a word, he repeated sounds, seeking a reference point. His friend spoke to him, others came close. I told them to to warn those who were with him, for him to have support when he got to the hospital. The second time we moved him, we went on to the Naud row, and there were more people from the medical team of the event who took care of him. The ambulance finally arrived, escorted by agents of the Surete du Quebec. It took a while for it to reach us, then Alexander was placed on a stretcher, and his friend went with him.
I will not go into descriptive detail of the injury he had, but these were lacerations, which couldn’t have been the result of plastic bullets or pool balls, even rocks. Alexander had no mask, no hood, he was in a t-shirt. My guess is that he was overcome by tear gas, found himself blinded and disoriented. Shots from both sides were made, and he would have received a grenade at that moment. We must remember that all this happened at the beginning of the so-called “Riot”, when the protesters had little projectiles. On the other hand, the grenades thrown by the police are metal objects that deploy on contact, triggering the explosion of the container and therefore can cause severe cuts. This is what I believe happened to Alexander.
What I experienced is a confrontation with violence which is close to the aesthetics of war. For two days now, I explain the images that pass through me, I think of the police intervention, the smell of tear gas. I was disturbed to later see health status of Alexander in the media, to see that what I felt really fit in proportion to the severity of the injury. It was not simply a dramatic structure that I had built. I am also angry to see that once again, the media serve the interests of those who govern and hold the monopoly on violence. It has been said that we had been infiltrated by a minority of thugs, that there was no police brutality, the repressive response was normal since we had crossed a “symbolic boundary” that had been drawn around the hotel. We were shown a pile of rocks, sticks and tie-wraps, obviously picked up at random, to demonstrate the agitation of the demonstrators. We were served an entirely assembled narrative to justify military intervention to protect officials and government representatives.
They try to make us swallow that Alexander was injured by other demonstrators or protesters, that ultimately it is “our fault”. If there is an investigation of the Surete du Quebec in this event, it will be again to conclude that they are not responsible. Already, the press conferences have shown us: asserting a “symbolic boundary” in no way allows the extent of physical attacks on people in any way equipped to fight on equal terms.
In short, no matter where this account finds itself, I want it to be able to resonate with other people who saw, who heard, that it contributes to a critical discourse. To make our collective memory allow us to say that we will not forget, that there is no forgiveness for those who claim to defend the justice of the social elite.