As people are preparing and organizing for occupations across North America, I hope that I may offer some information that will help deal with what could transpire, especially to my friends who are attending Occupy Toronto.
My experience at last year’s G20 in Toronto was first one of a person curious about the event, to jumping into a team with my two best friends and an experienced street medic as violence began to unfold, and later kettled with over 100 others and detained for 20 hours. While watching videos of police response to Occupy Wall Street, the scenes unfolding are far too familiar. I’d like to say this couldn’t happen in Canada, but it wasn’t that long ago that it did.
Despite the best intentions of the critical mass to uphold a peaceful and non-violent protest, the risk of those who may choose to provoke instances of violence (whether police or protester) puts everyone in danger. From my experiences at the G20, these were five of the most important lessons learned and recommendations I would make to those attending occupations:
- WATCH YOUR EXITS. To avoid being kettled or trapped in a dangerous position, be very aware of your surroundings. Stay away from police lines and always be aware of your nearest exit should you need to vacate.
- BRING LOTS OF BOTTLED WATER FOR THE MEDIC TEAMS, AND OTHER MEDIC SUPPLIES. This was one of the hardest things as a medic to keep on hand, and most essential to clean out wounds, tear gas, or for those suffering from dehydration. If you are attending, please bring extra bottles of water for the medic teams. You may also want to keep a rag of cider vinegar in a ziplock bag to reduce impact of tear gas should it be deployed.
- WALK, DON’T RUN. It’s instinctual to want to flee in a dangerous situation, but keep your pace steady to avoid injuring others. If you see large crowds running, don’t be afraid to shout “WALK”. I was amazed at how effective this was in slowing people down.
- PAY ATTENTION TO YOUR ENERGY LEVELS. With the high energy that comes from crowd demonstrations, you can quickly deplete your energy and become dehydrated. Keep snacks and fluids on hand, and keep an eye on the people around you as well.
- STAY CALM AND HELP OTHERS DO THE SAME. This can be especially important in situations where tensions are escalating. Watch out for your fellow brothers and sisters in solidarity and maintain a calm presence in all situations.
If you have any questions please feel free to send a friend request with a message including which occupation you are attending. I believe in the message that needs to be shared in this effort, and as we chanted at the G20:
THE PEOPLE UNITED WILL NEVER BE DEFEATED
In Peace and Solidarity,