As protests against police brutality have swept the country, in some cases leading to additional police aggression, toward demonstrators, a loosely organized group of trained volunteers has been on call to intervene and treat injuries.
Street medics, who may be medical professionals or first aid practitioners with only basic training, bandage cuts and rubber bullet wounds. They treat symptoms from tear gas, Mace and pepper spray, using water and saline to flush protesters’ eyes. And, working as teams, they help move marchers out of harm’s way.
Ann Hirschman, a licensed nurse-practitioner and the self-proclaimed “grandmother of street medics,” has been active at demonstrations since the 1960s. In that time, she has learned that at protests, some principles of traditional emergency care don’t apply.
“For instance, if you take CPR, the first thing they tell you is, ‘Make sure the scene is safe before you even go towards the patient,’” Ms. Hirschman, 73, said. “Street medics go toward the patient and make the scene safe for them.”