Protestors in major cities across the country faced off against police in response to the murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis police officers.
In many of the cities—including Salt Lake City, Atlanta, and Washington D.C.—what began as a series of silent protests throughout the afternoon over the weekend turned violent by sundown as opportunists came to take advantage of the situation, forcing mayors to impose curfews.
During a demonstration in Indiana, 21-year-old Balin Brake was struck in the eye by a can of tear gas.
To anybody curious. My eye ruptured when a FWPD Officer unnecessarily and improperly fired a tear gas canister at m… https://t.co/eHMsY3GGmW— lens (@lens) 1590904876.0
The chemical weapon similar to mace is often employed by police and military personnel to control crowds and causes severe eye and respiratory pain.
Brake—a student at Indiana Tech—was with a group of protesters that had congregated outside of the Allen County Courthouse on Saturday when he felt an object hit his shoe.
It turned to out to be a can of tear gas that police began hurling as they advanced towards the crowd.
Although there were conflicting reports as to what happened, according to WWFT, Brake reached down to pick up the can to hurl back at police.
When he turned around, a second can hit his eye.
If you told me that Balin Brake was going to get his eye shot out by a irresponsible cop amidst a national protest… https://t.co/MiqBJltdq4— Sean (@Sean) 1590955776.0
His mother, Rachel Simonis, told the Journal Gazette:
"He saw [the canister] hit the ground after it hit him."
Doctors were not able to salvage her son's eye after an early morning surgery and told her there was "nothing left but the shell of his eye."
@notbalin I’ve had one eye my whole life bro, it ain’t all that bad, be proud you stood up and made a sacrifice for… https://t.co/46YliIpqbB— Luke Dorsch (@Luke Dorsch) 1591035211.0
Sgt. Sofia Rosales-Scatena issued a statement denying allegations that an officer had targeted Brake.
@notbalin Again.. why are officers aiming for the head or face!? Like you can easily shot at legs..— 🦠AXL JAMES🦠 (@🦠AXL JAMES🦠) 1590911758.0
The statement read:
"According to our officers on the ground, the protester was still in the area after commands to leave the area were given."
"Gas was deployed in the area and the protester bent over to pick up the canister to throw it back at officers as many others were trying to do."
"When he bent over, another canister was deployed in the area and that canister skipped and hit the protester in the eye. There was no deliberate deployment of gas to any persons head,
But Brake—who was still in the hospital after sustaining the injury to his face—told news outlets that he never bent down with the intention of throwing the canister back at the police.
"Absolutely not. I was not wearing gloves."
"Those canisters are hot as hell. I would not try to pick them up with my bare hands."
After sustaining his injury, Brake said that losing his eye was a "small collateral for the battle we're fighting."
He also acknowledged that White privilege was real and said that:
"if you're not going to use it to advocate for your fellow people, then that is just wrong."
He also minimized his physical pain on Twitter and said that it "pales in comparison to the hardships African Americans have endured for decades."
"Stand up for what u believe in."
fresh out of post op. I might have to have surgery for broken bones in my face within weeks to come but for now all… https://t.co/N0M6DLAiig— lens (@lens) 1590937786.0
People expressed appreciation for their injured ally.
@notbalin @Kristin_Shawty Im so unbelievably sorry this happened to you. For what it’s worth, i want to thank you f… https://t.co/O3dJtvnJoF— Tyrone Kuykendoll (@Tyrone Kuykendoll) 1590938210.0
@notbalin @finesznpt2 We appreciate you for standing for us. Now stand with you. Update us on your recovery.— Sadé♡ (@Sadé♡) 1590909528.0
@notbalin @laurenthehough I’m very sorry. Thank you for standing up with us. Everyone else be safe learn from Hong https://t.co/jgSdOSS0t8— Lindiwe Suttle (@Lindiwe Suttle) 1590918638.0
The Brake family set up a medical fund page on Facebook to help cover medical expenses.
In two days, the amount reached $45K of its $50K goal.