It started off as “hit with a broomstick”, but ended up resembling a cross between a riot and a carnival.
A small road, perhaps 20 households, down on the isle of dogs. A family feud had finally spilled over into violence, one woman had been hit with a plastic broom, another had hurt her leg, a 10 year old had brandished a knife.
One of the injured parties had knocked on every front door in sight looking for witnesses, so there were around 50 people (mainly children) milling around. It was a beautiful day, and people were enjoying the spectacle in the afternoon sun. Children were running around, ice creams were being sold, and teenagers were staring at the scene, smoking and snogging and getting in the way.
The police had come in a van, and no-one was listening to what they said. They couldn’t arrest the 10 year old, there were no witnesses, the child was under age, and yes, if he had stabbed someone then they could arrest him.
There were half a dozen languages being spoken, and people were angry that the police and I aren’t fluent in Urdu, Hindi, Somali, Turkish and Twi. they didn’t realise that running up to a policeman, waving their hands around and shouting what sounded to me like gibberish, when there is someone who can translate standing next to you isn’t the best way to go about things.
“She hit me”, “All three of them hit me”, “I was kicked”, “I have a broken leg” (No…you don’t), “My mum is going to have a heart attack”, “I want them arrested”, “I want this written down”, “It’s been going on for ages, why haven’t you done something?”, “Why are we waiting so long for the ambulance?”, “What are you going to do about them?”, “My mother has fainted”, “My leg is still broken”.
I suggested that the police get the riot squad down. A good idea, but they were all on day release having a picnic.
The police were starting to lose their temper, no-one was listening, no-one cared for what the police could or couldn’t do, they just wanted the attackers punished, locked up, or evicted.
People started to filter away when they realised that no-one was going to get handcuffed and thrown in the police van.
I finally managed to get to one of the ‘patients’. Her family were pouring water over her head. There is a ‘section of the community that believes that water being poured over the afflicted area will help, so I get sent to people with difficulty in breathing who are being soaked with flannels, and chest pains that are dripping wet.
I’m used to strange beliefs, my mother thinks inanimate objects have feelings…
The water was running clear from her head, no blood. No loss of consciousness either. Looking at the ‘broomstick’, a light plastic pole, I’d be surprised if it even left a bruise.
The ambulances came, crews looking confused as I gave them the shortest version of the respective stories I could come up with.
The other ‘patient’ was complaining of a broken leg. She was still convinced she had a broken leg as she climbed up the steps into the ambulance.
Two patients, two different hospitals (we like to keep people separated in cases like this), and half a dozen police officers.
Slowly the street returned to normal and I settled down next to the Thames to do double the normal paperwork.
“No obvious serious injury”.