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Forgotten victim of a rubber bullet

May 25, 2001 | Page 2

QUEBEC CITY‚ Canada--The media have forgotten April's Summit of the Americas and the protesters who braved repression to speak out against the bosses' free-trade agenda.

But Eric Laferriere can't forget. That's because he was silenced--literally--by a rubber bullet fired in Quebec City.

Laferriere was one of the 50,000 people who turned out to protest the Free Trade Area of the Americas. Near the "wall of shame"--the barrier erected by authorities to keep demonstrators away--he was part of a confrontation with riot police.

A cop firing rubber bullets was standing 20 feet from Laferriere when he took aim and fired. The projectile hit Laferriere in the throat, crushing his larynx and windpipe. He now has a steel plate in his throat--and breathes through a small metal hole.

After weeks in the hospital, Laferriere is able to speak again--but only in a faint whisper. "It's like someone is grabbing me by the throat and trying to choke me," he told one reporter.

As many activists learned in Quebec City, the term "rubber bullet" doesn't properly describe the four-inch long pieces of rock-hard plastic that come out of the gun at 300 feet per second.

The Toronto Star reported that cops used close to 1,000 of these projectiles--placing protesters at risk with their indiscriminate firing, according to a panel appointed by the Quebec provincial government.

Yet no one's apologized to Laferriere for the nightmare he's endured--all for the "crime" of speaking out.

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