Street Medic Guide



Prepare yourself to assist.

Street medics, or action medics, are volunteers with varying degrees of medical training who attend protests and demonstrations to provide medical care such as first aid. Unlike regular emergency medical technicians, who serve with more established institutions, street medics usually operate in a less formal manner.

Information About Street Medics:

Street medics, or action medics, are volunteers with varying degrees of medical training who help provide medical care, such as first aid, in situations frequently neglected by traditional institutions – protests, disaster areas, under-served communities, and others. Unlike emergency medical technicians (EMTs), who work for state-sponsored institutions, street medics operate as civilians and are not protected from arrest.

Street medic organizations also run low-income herbal health clinics, wellness clinics for migrant workers, and temporary family practice clinics to support people who are organizing for self-defense or advocating for their rights. A group of street medics founded the first health clinic to open in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina.

Street medics work under the philosophy of “first do no harm” (i.e., the Hippocratic Oath), meaning that medics employ treatments that must never harm the patient more than they help. Because medics have different levels of training, they will be able to provide different types of care. Street medic collectives representing cities or regions plan training programs focusing on treating demonstration-related injuries, and plan health, safety, and medical coverage of upcoming demonstrations.

Sometimes an affinity group will include one or more trained street medics to attend specifically to members of that group.

Many street medics have pursued further medical training, most commonly in nursing, emergency medicine, and herbalism. There are street medics employed in almost every field of medicine and rescue, including surgery, family practice medicine, psychiatry,research, both classical and traditional Chinese medicine, medical herbalism, first aid instruction, fire-fighting, and wilderness medicine.


Street Medic History:

Street medics originated in the U.S. in 1964 during the African-American Civil Rights Movement. They were originally organized as the Medical Presence Project (MPP) of the Medical Committee for Human Rights (MCHR), the voluntary health corps of the Civil Rights Movement. In the 1966 MCHR Orientation Manual, MPP is described.

Just presence of … health … personnel has been found extrordinarily useful in allaying apprehensions about disease and injury in the Civil Rights workers… There also seems to be a preventative aspect to medical presence – actual violence seems to occur less often if it is known that medical professionals are present, particularly when Civil Rights workers are visited in jail at the time of imprisonment or thereafter regularly. In addition, medical personnel should anticipate violence in terms of specific projects and localities and be present at the right place and the right time. Thus, medical personnel should be in intimate contact with the civil rights organizations at all times, and … be aware of any immediate planned activities.

The MPP evolved into the early street medic groups, who concieved of medicine as self-defense, and believed that anyone could be trained to provide basic care. Street medics provided medical support and education within the American Indian Movement (AIM), Vietnam Veterans Against the War (VVAW), Young Lords Party, Black Panther Party, and other revolutionary formations of the 1960s and 1970s. Street medics were also involved in free clinics developed by the groups they supported. The street medic pepper spray removal protocol was later adopted by the U.S. Military.

In the 1980s, “action support,” including medical support of long marches in the No Nukes and Indigenous Sovereignty movements, was provided by non-street medics. One of these action support groups, Seeds Of Peace, (formed in 1986), stopped offering medical support as the street medics re-emerged.

Street medics were active on a small scale during the protest activity against Operation Desert Storm (1990–1991). They were rejuvenated on a large scale during the 1999 Meeting of the World Trade Organization, when street medics attended to protesters who were injured by police and use of chemical weapons such as pepper spray and tear gas.

In the aftermath of the WTO Meeting, protest sympathizers and/or attendees organized street medic trainings nationwide in preparation for the next round of anti-globalization marches. The parents of the post-WTO street medic boom (1999-2001), who trained thousands of medics in a few years, were the Colorado StreetMedics (the direct descendent of the first MCHR StreetMedics), Black Cross Collective, and On the Ground.

How To Become A Street Medic:

NOTICE: We are providing this information for educational reference only. Our Street Medic Guide in no way substitutes for proper Street Medic training courses which are led by qualified instructors!

 1. If you have not been to a protest involving an adversarial police force before, it is advisable that you do so before trying to act as a street medic. Participating in a protest will give you valuable experience in terms of predicting the actions of both protesters and police. It is always advised to have an action buddy when maintaining a medic role.

2. Once you feel ready to show up as a medic, it’s a good idea to get some training. Street medics vary widely in terms of skills and experience, ranging from basic first aid practitioners to military- or professionally-trained medics. Basic First Aid certification will give you most of the skills you will need to use as a street medic, however it is advised that one attends a Street Medic Training course. These are available through your local action medic collectives. One should also shadow a trained medic at an action prior to maintaining the role.

3. Street medics often use an additional set of skills not taught in first aid courses, such as teargas decontamination and crowd assessment. Search social networking or activist sites in your area to see when street medic training sessions are being held, then do your best to attend. Bring food if you really want to make a good impression.

4. Assemble your gear, and keep it organized and ready to go. You don’t know when you’re going to hear about a protest action (especially with Occupy, which tends to have events spring up in moments), and the last thing you want is to have to scramble around looking for your first aid kit when you hear the police are launching gas at a march.

5. Do your research. As a medic it will be your job to keep an eye on the police, and being able to accurately determine the weaponry they’re carrying (and thereby the effects you should be prepared to treat) should be one of your most solid skills. This will involve looking at a lot of “less-lethal” manufacturing sites, as well as watching potentially troubling footage of protest injuries. We apologize in advance.

6. We have a street medic primer with a rough equipment list available here, though there are many other resources available online to help prepare medics for protest action. The best thing you can do (even better than reading Tumblr!) is to get in touch with your local street medic group and ask them what it would take to join up. They will be able to give you much deeper level of instruction than we will ever be able to accomplish online.