Occupy Denver profile: The morning after, Patricia Hughes is a medic and a survivor
As of 5 a.m. today, it's officially the morning after. The time between 11 p.m. and right about now has left many of the Occupy Denver protesters, particularly those who aren't accounted for, just a little worse for the wear.
Patricia Hughes is nursing her wrist, but the Ace bandages the group had collected are somewhere in the large pile of debris being carted away on a truck. "It's sprained," she says. "I should probably do something about it."
She should know: A home care nurse by trade, the volunteer has served as a camp medic for the past eighteen days. In its average hours, the job centers on collecting and cataloging the supplies provided by donors to the cause -- the ones now in the back of the same truck. And on some days it involves tending to homeless veterans or repairing the minor injuries that come with the occupations. Last night, it included triage stations.
In preparation for for a potential gassing by the police, Hughes and the other medics established sites dedicated to the possibility of mass injury. Although they weren't required, one of the two sites was her apartment, only a few blocks away. "We didn't need the triage, and we were dragged out of the medical tent before anything even happened," says Hughes, as she explains the origins of her sprain. "We were prepared, and we're always prepared, but I'm relieved that's one preparation we didn't have to use."
Hughes, like most of Occupy Denver's ranks, is no stranger to activism, and in the time not spent at work or the group's former campgrounds, she frequently canvases for Campaign For A Healthy Denver, the city's pro-Initiative 300 group. Right now, she is shaking in the morning chill, and she still hasn't moved past the camp's loss of all its materials.
"The food is gone, the medical supplies are gone and even the cash we were raising for a new tent city is missing," Hughes says. "The likelihood of us getting that back is the likelihood of me becoming the next pope."
Hughes is the sort of person who can reference "the American Dream," without irony, and then in the next moment reference "peace and love." Her appearance today is markedly different than the one she fronts at rallies against Initiative 300: The quiet, proper nurse has been replaced with a confident, brazen protester in an oversized Dropkick Murphys sweatshirt. "I'm not a dirty hippie," she says, shaking her head. "I'm a nice little nurse, and it takes all types. I might look like a street punk today, but that's on purpose."
Zoom in only slightly behind Hughes, and this is the scene.
This morning, Hughes' voice of reason and her orange security vest make her a go-to contact for the group's future plans, which, though hazy, are emphatic. When the idea to storm back to the campgrounds breaks out, she facilitates debate without actually coming down on either side. Her main focus is on continuing the resistance, and although she was removed from the medic tent this morning, she and her fellow protesters have zero intention of being removed altogether.
"I'm not leaving here until we get more tents back up," Hughes pledges. The fact that she has been awake since five yesterday morning and downtown since 4 p.m. the same day makes this a challenge. But she says "if that takes 48 hours or 72 hours or even more hours, so be it. Things are about to get interesting."
More from our Occupy Denver archive: "Occupy Denver photo gallery captures the night (and morning) the tent city came down."