Protests can be dangerous places, especially demonstrations about police violence where officers use batons, shields, tear gas, rubber bullets and their fists on the participants.
That’s why people with medical training ― emergency medical technicians, nurses, doctors and others ― usually come to provide aid, just like they do at other large gatherings. In addition to assaults by police officers, protesters have to worry about violence from counterprotesters, not to mention injuries from simply being in a large crowd and other health care emergencies, like heatstroke. The need for rapid medical assistance is real.
Whether these volunteer medics support the aims of Black Lives Matter protesters or not, their purpose is to help anyone who becomes sick or injured.
But as police across the United States have made plain ― particularly now, as people take to the streets to protest racism and police violence against Black Americans after a Minneapolis police officer killed George Floyd last week ― it doesn’t matter who you are or why you’re there: The cops will take you out.
On top of instigating violence with peaceful protesters and escalating the demonstrations with shows of force and military-style gear and vehicles (and the actual military), police officers have targeted essential workers such as health care personnel and food deliverers, as well as journalists, including a HuffPost reporter.
Police brutality is wrong under any circumstances, but the instances of medical personnel being assaulted or harassed are deeply troubling.
Police used shotguns to fire bean bags filled with lead pellets at an injured protester and the medics trying to assist him during an Austin, Texas, demonstration.
Police arrested a physician and journalist who attended a protest in New York City to offer his services as a medical doctor.
In Asheville, North Carolina, police officers destroyed a medical assistance tent and the water supplies volunteers brought.
During times of war, soldiers aren’t allowed to attack military medics. It’s in the Geneva Convention, which states:
Medical personnel exclusively engaged in the search for, or the collection, transport or treatment of the wounded or sick, or in the prevention of disease, staff exclusively engaged in the administration of medical units and establishments, as well as chaplains attached to the armed forces, shall be respected and protected in all circumstances.
Even in their combat-ready armor, with their combat-style rifles and combat-looking vehicles, police officers aren’t soldiers and aren’t trained like soldiers. But if they want to dress up like soldiers, they should be expected, at a minimum, to follow the same rules soldiers do.