If you were walking down the street and saw a woman being assaulted, possibly raped, would you intervene in an attempt to protect her? Or you would just watch, snap some photos, and tell everyone about the horrible atrocities which happen. It seems as if society is moving more in the direction of the latter. The problem is we have become so comfortable with protesting that we forgot the goal of protesting is to encourage action.
Lets take a look at this video (NSFW – language). You may have already seen it before. It is a man in a wheelchair being thrown to the ground and suffering bloody injuries to his head.
Context is irrelevant; there is a man, clearly not a physical threat, who was torn from his wheelchair and subjected to severe abuse, which is not acceptable. What’s worse is the people around him sat and watched without budging to offer him any protection. Sure there is the risk of jail, however, you know you did the right thing… rather than allowing an innocent man to be abused by the power-glutted thugs.
I was in downtown Vancouver for the riots, providing first aid to those who needed it (on either side, though since the police were trying to arrest me, they didn’t take my help). While I was pouring water into the eyes of some poor man, who had the unfortunate experience of running into a stream of pepper spray not intended for him, I saw a boy running along the street. This boy could not have been older than 16 and he seemed like he was trying to leave the riot area. He tripped and fell right in front of two cops. Instead of the cops stopping the looting which was happening in the store right behind them, they pulled out their truncheons (nightsticks) and began to bludgeon the boy. They hit him six or seven times each. I grabbed the young man as he was trying to crawl away from these police officers, and fortunately got him to safety. In the process, I was struck on the arm and back with a night stick. I helped the boy limp away. Instead of chasing us, the cops directed their whomever was closest to them.
I am not afraid of going to jail for doing what is right. Helping people, ensuring a person’s cuts don’t get infected, washing out a man’s eyes…are acts of compassion, not facilitating a riot. When an innocent boy is being mercilessly beaten by cops, it’s the responsibility of an unbiased third party to step in and protect those in need. I wasn’t protecting the boy; I was protecting a person. I would have done the same for the cop.
There were plenty of people photographing the riots. Many were documenting the levels of violence used by the police on people, and showing the errors made by the city. These same people trying to draw attention to the injustice walked right by as a man was writhing on the concrete, his body wracked with pain. Sure, you can paint a picture to show the rest of the world just how awful the situation was for all parties, but you are still allowing the violence to continue. Sometimes you need to stop hiding behind your camera and your commitment to “protesting” and “observing and reporting;” when you see a situation which is not right, you do what you can to make it right.
People need to stand together. When you walk along the street, you should feel comfortable in knowing if you are unjustly attacked, your neighbours, friends, co-inhabitants, and fellow humans will stand up for you and defend you. It does not matter if the villain wears a badge or a mask… they should feel the fear of a community who is ready to do what is right, and is less concerned of what is legal.
(special thanks to Renee for editing assistance)