Photographer vows action on G8 police grenade injury

A freelance photographer covering the G8 protest marches in Geneva is recovering from two hours of surgery after being wounded by a police concussion grenade.

Guy Smallman, who was working for Images sans Frontières, spoke to Press Gazette from his bed in Geneva’s main hospital where “a hole the size of a fist” in the calf of his right leg has been operated on.

Surgeons have told him he will not lose his leg but that the injury is very serious and he could be in for “years of physio”. Dead muscle has been removed from the leg and what is left repaired.

Smallman has already consulted a solicitor in the UK, who is contacting colleagues in Switzerland, and the NUJ.

Ironically, Smallman, who has covered violent G8 rioting in Genoa, Prague and Brussels, was wounded while he was returning with protesters from a peaceful march to the border with France. The G8 summit is being held at Evian.

He had deliberately chosen to photograph a peaceful demonstration, he said. The marchers, around 15,000, set out from Geneva to meet a similar number from France on the border.

There had been no police in sight and the march was trouble-free until it broke up and people were “ambling back, some were pensioners and women with pushchairs” to the city, he stated.

Then, said Smallman, a freelance since 1999, around 100 police in riot gear got out of vans and started forming lines across the road, breaking up groups of people. They withdrew, only to form up again, so some of the main organisers went to ask a police officer what was going on.

People were provoked and a group of 10 or so started to build a barricade 100 yards from police lines, said Smallman. “Someone threw a couple of stones at police. At which point the police charged and about 20 or 30 concussion grenades went off at once.”

He ran up a stone staircase, taking pictures as he ran, when one of the grenades exploded on his leg. He felt pain but did not realise he had been wounded until he saw a trail of blood behind him and “a big hole the size of a fist in my trousers”.

A doctor among the demonstrators applied a tourniquet and Smallman was taken to hospital by ambulance.

“I am going to explore every single possibility of taking action against the police,” he said.

By Jean Morgan

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