Mass. General deployed hazmat tent to treat tear gas victims as protests turned violent

BOSTON — In a letter sent to staff Monday morning, Massachusetts General Hospital leaders explained the steps the hospital took to help treat people injured during Sunday night’s violent riots.

Peaceful rallies and marches devolved into violent riots when the sun went down Sunday evening. Windows were smashed, police cruisers were torched, and businesses were looted as chaos ensued.

The letter was signed by MGH’s Executive Director of Police, Security and Outside Services, Bonnie Michelman, and Paul Biddinger, the chief of the hospital’s Division of Emergency Preparedness.

“Following an afternoon of peaceful protests in Boston prompted by last week’s death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, the frustration, outrage and pain spilled over into destruction and violence late last night,” Michelman and Biddinger wrote. “While many sections of Boston, sadly, were looted and damaged, we are fortunate that the riots did not reach the immediate area around Mass General.”

The letter went on to explain how MGH deployed a hazmat tent outside the hospital to help treat people injured in the riots.

“There were, in fact, several points in the night when pepper spray and tear gas were used,” the letter said. “As a result, a few people came to the MGH Emergency Department for decontamination.”

The letter explained how the tent will remain up in front of the hospital for the next several days, as there are more protests planned in Boston this week.

Beyond tear gas exposure, Michelman and Biddinger said the only other riot-related injuries treated in the emergency department were cause by people being hit by objects thrown into crowds.

“As crowds in the city became increasingly aggressive, the hospital brought in extra security staff, with officers visible around the perimeter of the campus,” the letter explained. “MGH remained locked down throughout the evening with the exception of three entrances, which were staffed with extra security officers.”

The letter said staff members who worked Sunday evening were asked to remain at the hospital even after their shifts ended to prevent employees traveling during the height of the violence, and to ensure “sufficient staffing should some night shift staff be unable to travel into MGH.”

Staff members were able to safely leave the hospital after midnight.

“We understand that such unrest and violence across the nation and especially right here in Boston can be unsettling,” the letter said. “We want to assure you that the hospital will continue to follow the situation closely and make decisions with the safety and well-being of our staff, patients and families in mind.”