Medics at UCLA protest say police weapons drew blood and cracked bones


Contained in the protesters’ encampment at UCLA, beneath the glow of hanging flashlights and a deafening backdrop of exploding flash-bangs, OB-GYN resident Elaine Chan instantly felt like a battlefield medic.

Police had been pushing into the camp after an hours-long standoff. Chan, 31, a medical tent volunteer, stated protesters limped in with extreme puncture wounds, however there was little hope of getting them to a hospital via the chaos outdoors. Chan suspects the accidents had been attributable to rubber bullets or different “much less deadly” projectiles, which police have confirmed had been fired at protesters.

“It could pierce via pores and skin and gouge deep into individuals’s our bodies,” she stated. “All of them had been profusely bleeding. In OB-GYN we do not deal with rubber bullets. … I could not consider that this was allowed to be [done to] civilians — college students — with out protecting gear.”

The UCLA protest, which gathered 1000’s in opposition to Israel’s ongoing bombing of Gaza, started in April and grew to a harmful crescendo this month when counterprotesters and police clashed with the activists and their supporters.

In interviews with KFF Well being Information, Chan and three different volunteer medics described treating protesters with bleeding wounds, head accidents, and suspected damaged bones in a makeshift clinic cobbled collectively in tents with no electrical energy or operating water. The medical tents had been staffed day and evening by a rotating staff of medical doctors, nurses, medical college students, EMTs, and volunteers with no formal medical coaching.

At instances, the escalating violence outdoors the tent remoted injured protesters from entry to ambulances, the medics stated, so the wounded walked to a close-by hospital or had been carried past the borders of the protest in order that they might be pushed to the emergency room.

“I’ve by no means been in a setting the place we’re blocked from getting larger stage of care,” Chan stated. “That was terrifying to me.”

Three of the medics interviewed by KFF Well being Information stated they had been current when police swept the encampment Could 2 and described a number of accidents that appeared to have been attributable to “much less deadly” projectiles.

Much less deadly projectiles — together with beanbags stuffed with steel pellets, sponge-tipped rounds, and projectiles generally often called rubber bullets — are utilized by police to subdue suspects or disperse crowds or protests. Police drew widespread condemnation for utilizing the weapons towards Black Lives Matter demonstrations that swept the nation after the killing of George Floyd in 2020. Though the identify of those weapons downplays their hazard, much less deadly projectiles can journey upward of 200 mph and have a documented potential to injure, maim, or kill.

The medics’ interviews immediately contradict an account from the Los Angeles Police Division. After police cleared the encampment, LAPD Chief Dominic Choi stated in a put up on the social platform X that there have been “no severe accidents to officers or protestors” as police moved in and made greater than 200 arrests.

In response to questions from KFF Well being Information, each the LAPD and California Freeway Patrol stated in emailed statements that they might examine how their officers responded to the protest. The LAPD assertion stated the company was conducting a assessment of the way it and different regulation enforcement companies responded, which might result in a “detailed report.”

The Freeway Patrol assertion stated officers warned the encampment that “non-lethal rounds” could also be used if protesters didn’t disperse, and after some grew to become an “speedy menace” by “launching objects and weapons,” some officers used “kinetic specialty rounds to guard themselves, different officers, and members of the general public.” One officer acquired minor accidents, in line with the assertion.

Video footage that circulated on-line after the protest appeared to indicate a Freeway Patrol officer firing much less deadly projectiles at protesters with a shotgun.

“The usage of pressure and any incident involving the usage of a weapon by CHP personnel is a severe matter, and the CHP will conduct a good and neutral investigation to make sure that actions had been in keeping with coverage and the regulation,” the Freeway Patrol stated in its assertion.

The UCLA Police Division, which was additionally concerned with the protest response, didn’t reply to requests for remark.

Jack Fukushima, 28, a UCLA medical pupil and volunteer medic, stated he witnessed a police officer shoot not less than two protesters with much less deadly projectiles, together with a person who collapsed after being hit “sq. within the chest.” Fukushima stated he and different medics escorted the shocked man to the medical tent then returned to the entrance strains to search for extra injured.

“It did actually really feel like a conflict,” Fukushima stated. “To be met with such police brutality was so disheartening.”

Again on the entrance line, police had breached the borders of the encampment and begun to scrum with protesters, Fukushima stated. He stated he noticed the identical officer who had fired earlier shoot one other protester within the neck.

The protester dropped to the bottom. Fukushima assumed the worst and rushed to his aspect.

“I discover him, and I am like, ‘Hey, are you OK?'” Fukushima stated. “To the purpose of braveness of those undergrads, he is like, ‘Yeah, it isn’t my first time.’ After which simply jumps proper again in.”

Sonia Raghuram, 27, one other medical pupil stationed within the tent, stated that through the police sweep she tended to a protester with an open puncture wound on their again, one other with a quarter-sized contusion within the heart of their chest, and a 3rd with a “gushing” lower over their proper eye and attainable damaged rib. Raghuram stated sufferers instructed her the injuries had been attributable to police projectiles, which she stated matched the severity of their accidents.

The sufferers made it clear the law enforcement officials had been closing in on the medical tent, Raghuram stated, however she stayed put.

“We are going to by no means depart a affected person,” she stated, describing the mantra within the medical tent. “I do not care if we get arrested. If I am taking good care of a affected person, that is the factor that comes first.”

The UCLA protest is one among many which have been held on faculty campuses throughout the nation as college students against Israel’s ongoing conflict in Gaza demand universities help a ceasefire or divest from corporations tied to Israel. Police have used pressure to take away protesters at Columbia College, Emory College, and the schools of Arizona, Utah, and South Florida, amongst others.

At UCLA, pupil protesters arrange a tent encampment on April 25 in a grassy plaza outdoors the campus’s Royce Corridor theater, finally drawing 1000’s of supporters, in line with the Los Angeles Instances. Days later, a “violent mob” of counterprotesters “attacked the camp,” the Instances reported, making an attempt to tear down barricades alongside its borders and throwing fireworks on the tents inside.

The next evening, police issued an illegal meeting order, then swept the encampment within the early hours of Could 2, clearing tents and arresting a whole lot by daybreak.

Police have been broadly criticized for not intervening because the conflict between protesters and counterprotesters dragged on for hours. The College of California system introduced it has employed an unbiased policing marketing consultant to research the violence and “resolve unanswered questions on UCLA’s planning and protocols, in addition to the mutual support response.”

Charlotte Austin, 34, a surgical procedure resident, stated that as counterprotesters had been attacking she additionally noticed about 10 non-public campus safety officers stand by, “fingers of their pockets,” as college students had been bashed and bloodied.

Austin stated she handled sufferers with cuts to the face and attainable cranium fractures. The medical tent despatched not less than 20 individuals to the hospital that night, she stated.

“Any medical skilled would describe these as severe accidents,” Austin stated. “There have been individuals who required hospitalization — not only a go to to the emergency room — however precise hospitalization.”

Police ways ‘lawful however terrible’

UCLA protesters are removed from the primary to be injured by much less deadly projectiles.

In recent times, police throughout the U.S. have repeatedly fired these weapons at protesters, with just about no overarching requirements governing their use or security. Cities have spent tens of millions to settle lawsuits from the injured. A number of the wounded have by no means been the identical.

Through the nationwide protests following the police killing of George Floyd in 2020, not less than 60 protesters sustained severe accidents — together with blinding and a damaged jaw — from being shot with these projectiles, typically in obvious violations of police division insurance policies, in line with a joint investigation by KFF Well being Information and USA As we speak.

In 2004, in Boston, a university pupil celebrating a Crimson Sox victory was killed by a projectile stuffed with pepper-based irritant when it tore via her eye and into her mind.

“They’re known as much less deadly for a purpose,” stated Jim Bueermann, a former police chief of Redlands, California, who now leads the Future Policing Institute. “They’ll kill you.”

Bueermann, who reviewed video footage of the police response at UCLA on the request of KFF Well being Information, stated the footage reveals California Freeway Patrol officers firing beanbag rounds from a shotgun. Bueermann stated the footage didn’t present sufficient context to find out if the projectiles had been getting used “fairly,” which is an ordinary established by federal courts, or being fired “indiscriminately,” which was outlawed by a California regulation in 2021.

“There’s a saying in policing — ‘lawful however terrible’ — which means that it was cheap beneath the authorized requirements but it surely appears horrible,” Bueermann stated. “And I believe a cop racking a number of rounds right into a shotgun, firing into protesters, does not look excellent.”

This text was produced by KFF Well being Information, which publishes California Healthline, an editorially unbiased service of the California Well being Care Basis. 




Kaiser Health NewsThis text was reprinted from khn.org, a nationwide newsroom that produces in-depth journalism about well being points and is without doubt one of the core working applications at KFF – the unbiased supply for well being coverage analysis, polling, and journalism.

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