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Despite Macings, Principle Drives Iraq Vet To Occupy Seattle, Care for Wounded

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An Iraq War veteran serving as a volunteer medic for participants in the Occupy Seattle movement alleges he was maced 23 times in the face by Seattle police while attempting to render aid to protestors during the November 2 protest at a downtown Chase Bank.

Chris Anderson was 18 years old when he joined the military and became a MOS 91W combat medic serving in Iraq. Following in the footsteps of his grandpa, who served on a PT boat in Vietnam, Anderson was fulfilling his lifelong dream of a career serving his country. Six months into his tour of duty, while helping to evacuate wounded soldiers and civilians from a building in Baghdad, it collapsed, sending Chris tumbling through debris and chaos, then crashing to the ground three stories below. When he woke up in a hospital bed, his sergeant was holding papers confirming that he was going home. After almost four months of re-hab in Germany, he was medically discharged from the military.

Now 24, with lifelong disabilities including synthetic bones and knee caps, he will never serve his country again on the battlefield. But that hasn't stopped his passion for the 'American Way. He now stands up for his fellow countrymen in a different way, as a medic in the "Occupy Seattle" camp. He was administering emergency care to dozens of protesters caught in a chaos reminiscent of places far from the streets of urban America, when he was himself assaulted by police attempting to control the situation.

Protesters from Occupy Seattle, had gathered at Chase Bank in Seattle, to continue their stand against corporate greed and its undue influence on American life.

"It was by far the worst day of the Occupy movement in Seattle," said Chris, standing in the drizzle this week near the tents where he and his comrades sleep on the grounds of Seattle Central Community College. His eyes were running, still sore and swollen from being sprayed multiple times with what he is convinced was "bear mace" - the kind used to melt the fur of bears in order to penetrate the skin. For almost two weeks following the incident, the area around his mouth still showed marks and abrasions from multiple direct sprays to his face and torso.

Individuals rendering first aid to those being sprayed with mace and pepper spray were wearing fluorescent orange and yellow vests with red medical crosses.Those who couldn't afford the vests had medical symbols taped prominently to their arms and clothing. Upon being ordered to leave, medics informed officials that they were caring for patients and would not leave until the wounded were treated and in stable condition. Yet according to his account, Chris was sprayed directly in the face numerous times. He said he stumbled down stairs temporarily blinded, with lips and eyes burning -- but held his post. He also administered treatment to a police officer who was caught in the 'line of fire,' as well as to passers-by who were purportedly sprayed in the ensuing melee.

Unprepared for the violence inflicted at Chase Bank that afternoon, Chris returned to the medical tent at the Occupy Seattle headquarters on the campus of the college, where two signs stand side-by-side, drawn by the young people who characterize the movement to take back America for the 99%. The words on the signs, however, were first penned generations ago, with the same convictions that inspire the Occupy movement today. The voices of Benjamin Franklin and Samuel Adams resonate from across the centuries and settle into the cold November air on Capital Hill in Seattle, as modern day activists like Chris say, "History is being made right now -- and I want to be a part of it."

After attending to his own wounds and being treated at a nearby hospital, he put together eye wash kits and additional supplies -- and joined his peers again that evening as they gathered at the Sheraton Hotel, where Occupy Seattle demonstrators were joined by students and members of an organization called Working Washington. Again, he was subjected to pepper spray and what he maintains was mace, as he attended to the wounded. His chest also bears bruises from what he believes to be rubber bullets, though law enforcement officials have not disclosed whether they deployed them in the events of November 2.

Marissa Adams, a member of the media staff at Occupy Seattle, renders aid to the best of her ability when needed, wearing a protective mask when chemicals are being dispersed against protesters.

"If I can't breathe properly, then I can't help others," she explained to a police officer who expressed concern that she was inciting unrest by wearing a mask that is ordinarily donned in times of emergency. Her mask bears the statement "Peaceful but Prepared." Supplies at the medical tent are limited, and hindrances to treatment are compounded by what they perceive as a lack of transparency over the types of chemicals being used against them. Contact solution, milk, water and various other mixtures are utilized according to the type of spray that makes contact with the skin. Without proper disclosures of the chemicals, treatment can be rendered ineffective. Containers being carried by police officers, mounted on their bicycles, have purportedly been stripped of identifying labels.

An officer of the Seattle Police Department, who identified himself as "KB" with a badge number of 66806, denied the employment of any substance other than Oleoresin Capsicum, commonly known as pepper spray. When questioned by Adams during a subsequent incident on November 15, as protesters were again assaulted with pepper spray by police, he explained the absence of markings on the canisters as being a natural result of excessive use, and the large amounts of tape covering potential labels as merely a means to secure the cans to the bicycles. Regarding the allegations of bear mace, he replied, "No, absolutely not ... we don't have any. We don't carry it." He stated that the pepper spray was a .4 solution, as opposed to oil-based solutions of 10%, which were commonly used by the Seattle Police Department in previous years.

Chris is unemployable due to multiple debilitating injuries received in Iraq, and receives disability support from the military. He plans to remain at Occupy Seattle through the winter months, though he stresses that his convictions lie with the movement itself, rather than just with the "occupation."

It's the principles at stake, he says. "I'm just here to help out. The city's EMTs don't help unless they are called. I'm here all the time."

His longer-term goal is to put together a roving medical bus that can assist in Occupy movements across the country. When asked if the movement is sustainable in harsh weather conditions, including predicted snowfall in the coming days, Chris answered as any soldier would: "I'm going to make it happen. I can make this place hold out if I have the equipment."

On November 14, 2011, the Seattle City Council passed Resolution 31337 recognizing and supporting the exercise of First Amendment rights by Occupy Seattle as a fundamental right in the effort to redress economic injustice in America today. The resolution was introduced by Councilmember Nick Licata, cosponsored by Mike O'Brien and passed unanimously.

Individuals who wish to support Occupy Seattle can visit www.occupyseattle.org for information. Needs for the winter include industrial tarps, gasoline for generators, aids for combating frostbite, blankets, coats, food and more. Supplies can be dropped off in front of the camp on Broadway Street. Inquiries by email can be sent to Alyssa at : OSsupplyandstorage@gmail.com

Occupy Seattle Medic and Veteran: ' We Can Hold Out'
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