I was volunteering at an emergency medical triage center outside the Kmart at Lake St. & 32nd in Minneapolis.
It had gotten too late for me to get home safe, and I wanted to be nice to my mother; stay out of harms way. I decided to stay out of the protests, and volunteer for the night at the Kmart Emergency Medical Triage Center.
Built out of salvage by volunteers in a single day, it was a breathtaking symbol of what a community can do to support each other. We had so many supplies, so many volunteers. I wish that more could have seen it. People coming out of retirement to help their city. University of Minnesota Med students coming as far as Morris and Rochester.
When curfew hit, we were given the order “If you’re not here to help, LEAVE. Whoever comes through those gates, we help. I don’t want A. C. A. B. preventing anyone from saving anyone else’s life.” Despite agreeing to treat both sides of this conflict, only one side got hurt, and the other attacked us.
I saw what I realized to be an Long Range Acoustic Device (LRAD) in the distance, atop an armored vehicle moving towards us and away from smoke I had not seen earlier that day. Hundreds of people ran past us, one ran up yelling “You gotta get out of here man.” One of the organizers stated “We’re medical, we’re allowed to be here.” The man cried out bluntly, urging us to seek shelter. “They don’t care man, they don’t care.”
As far as we are aware, no police on Lake Street used live ammunition that night. But “Less Lethal” does not mean safe. When you hear of “Non-Lethals” & “Crowd Control” munitions, I want you to know how cops use them. My friends have seen children choking on their own teeth, eyes being shot with such force they explode, fingers hanging by strings. All from teargas canisters and “rubber” bullets — Which actually are rubber-tipped metal projectiles. These are usually massive compared to standard bullets, and are still fired as projectiles. Imagine a giant hunk of metal ready to spew caustic chemicals shot towards your eye at 40mph. And yes, they do aim for the eye. They traditionally try to aim for the hand or the eye, though I have seen one instance where they tried to shoot somebody’s neck vertebrae, trying to weasel a shot between a Press worker’s body armor and helmet and paralyze him.
We were treating multiple patients, themselves victims of police brutality, when a wave of dozens of law enforcement officers shot us until we were forced to abandon our post. The armored vehicle was with them, a sniper next to the LRAD. We had red cross insignias and had our hands up and were shouting “MEDIC. MEDICAL”
They said nothing. No announcement, just silence and gunshots. And the LRAD 1000, which made it feel like I was underwater, like both my body and brain were being attacked but in a way neither could comprehend. An LRAD 1000′s maximum operating distance is 3,000 meters, but its minimum is about 1,800. They were far below that. As my hearing became muffled, they just kept shooting. They shot at nurses and med students trying to save limbs and lives. Until we were forced to abandon both our patients and supplies. As I looked back I saw teargas billowing out of our hospital made out of salvage, ruining thousands of pieces of medical equipment.
The leader of my station, station 4, was a retired and currently homeless veterinarian. She had been in a car crash in 2017, and could not run. Earlier I had offered to carry her to safety if necessary, even had her jump on my back.I never got the chance, and I hope to god she’s alright.
We were split into 5 stations, stations 1 and 5 were the intensive care units, with ponchos on to shield from blood. My station treated a highschool girl whose hand was blackened by a teargas canister she picked up with her bare hand and lobbed back at the cops, away from unarmored civilians. That is honestly my only knowledge of any aggressive action by protestors at that point in the night. Talking with a friend who stayed with the protest, he said that even much later in the night, at the highest points of protester violence, all they threw were rocks, bottles, and insults. Not only was this a peaceful protest, but they were attacking a clearly designated emergency medical center along with these peaceful protestors.
The last video has jarring personal testimony from someone on station 5.
We walked slowly at first, remaining calm, our heads tilted down so that they couldn’t scan our faces. We thought it was a false alarm; an attack on a Medical Center in a war zone is a crime against humanity. We stopped for just a moment. The bullets started hailing down so much faster, and I ran, I ran as fast as I could.
I spent that night hiding in the concrete basement of an apartment building with a bunch of medics and volunteers. Not from rioters, and only barely from white supremacists. From the same cops I was so excited about saving the lives of. There were search parties hunting medics, we saw cop lights through the windows. We had to work by lantern light to hide from them.
We had our muffled hearts beating out of our chests as we heard commotion upstairs. It was a highschool boy dragging his girlfriend to shelter. The girlfriend’s face had a laceration and massive swelling from being hit in the face with a rubber bullet. She likely would have lost her eye, but as luck would have it, her boyfriend sought refuge in the same building that medics were using as a safe-house.
At about 10 we heard that someone, maybe police, was slicing tires in the back lot of the Kmart. Later, police including St. Cloud PD admitted that they were slashing tires, though ommitting the fact that they were slashing every single tire on the vehicles of medics and journalists.
In the apartment basement where we spent our night, there was a corridor where we huddled with the lights off for the first 15–20 minutes, because it was the most hidden part of the common areas.
Through it was the back stairwell, and a door to the outside.
We had someone watching that stairwell for the entire night.
At one point, the watchmen beckoned a few people over, and I followed. Our main watchman shushed us down, cracked open the door, and suddenly I was able to make out what I had been hearing for the past few minutes. Someone was screaming for help.
Wailing in agony. We had what must have been the vast majority of intact medical supplies, half a dozen trained medical personnel.
And we just had to watch.
Listen to them scream all night. Because it wasn’t safe.
Because we would be brutalized by police, murdered by white supremacists, or abducted by either.
We knew that to go out would probably mean us getting as fucked up as they were.
We were right there.
We could have helped.
I don’t know what happened to him
I just had to sit there shaking.
Police attacked a clearly designated and currently active medical encampment, gassed their supplies, and slashed every single one of their tires. The Multi-Agency Command Center on Civil Unrest (MACC) announced that the tire slashing was a necessary adaption to cars being used as weapons by rioters. This was true in the days prior, but this was a peaceful protest. The MACC announcement and the tire slashing at the Triage Center were in minutes of each other. We believe that MACC’s statement was a cover-up for that part of the attack. Which makes sense, given that the MACC tip line sends you to 2 places, the FBI, and the Minneapolis Police Department.
The next morning there was a white supremacist circling the block. We walked close together, hid behind cars, and it was striking how what would have felt like paranoia the morning prior was now just the proper precaution.
I grew up watching M*A*S*H*, I love the show. I was excited to help anyone I could. Instead of treating U.S. troops, we were attacked by them.
They’re only exempt from being war criminals because it doesn’t count when you do it to your own citizens.
The girlfriend’s favorite song was You Got Me by Erykah Badu & The Roots.
A few days later, at a protest outside the governor’s mansion in St. Paul, I talked to the girl who held a teargas canister in her bare hand. She was genuinely hopeful, positive despite what she’d been through.
Both were able to receive the medical treatments they needed thanks to generous donations.
Thank you to everyone who supports BLM, movements like it, and activists as a whole.