Wow, y’all. What a week. The recent murders of Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, and Tony McDade by police. An insurrection against cultural and systemic white supremacy. A violent police and state response. For many of us, multiple consecutive sleepless nights. Friends and comrades in jail. All this while pandemic restrictions let up too early, posing a risk for a second and possibly more severe wave of pandemic. We don’t know about you, but we’re finding it hard to know what to do, what to believe, how to plan or respond.
As we noted in our last post, since last week we’ve received well over 100 requests for training & offers to volunteer. This is great, and we’re so grateful for members of our community showing up for one another. We want to provide more information and resources that can be easily shared.
PROTESTING IN A PANDEMIC
We believe that demonstrating against an ongoing legacy of slavery, anti-Black terror, and the theft of Black and Brown life and opportunity is essential labor. And we unqualifiedly support Black Lives Matter and anti-police brutality protests.
At the same time, the pandemic presents a new and near-universal risk, at least as real and dangerous as chemical weapons or arrest. What can we do to protect ourselves, our comrades, our families and friends? What measures before, during, and after demos?
MEDICS AND PROTEST INFRASTRUCTURE
- Street Medics: are trained medical volunteers that specialize in protest settings and supporting oppressed people in liberatory struggle. Many are also healthcare professionals, but all should have 20 hrs training minimum, be prepared to respond to police violence, basic first aid needs, and to both physical and mental health emergencies. The most common convention is to wear a duct tape red cross. To avoid confusion, we ask that people not trained as street medics not mark with a red cross or identify as “medics”. [To get trained as a medic, please email your local medic collective (email@example.com for ours). Unfortunately trainings are unsafe/impossible in the context of a pandemic. We hope to return to this as soon as it’s safe.]
- Wellness Volunteers: distribute water, snacks, sunscreen, help out their friends and also strangers, provide rides, may be trained in eye flushing or basic first aid. They may be part of an affinity group or attending with a buddy, marching or handing supplies from a car or the curb. They shout “MEDIC” when the need outweighs their skill or capacity. WE LOVE THESE PEOPLE and we can all be helpers. There is no way street medics alone could address 10,000 people’s health and safety needs, and we want to offer what training we can to support you in supporting your people.
- Legal Observers: are volunteers trained by the National Lawyers Guild or ACLU other groups to observe protests and police activities without interfering and to provide documentation of police misconduct. Some legal observers are lawyers or participate in cop-watch activities. NLG observers can usually be identified with bright green hats. People representing as cop-watchers but harassing or filming protesters may be right-wing grifters instead, and are not to be trusted.
As 10s of thousands move into the street, many new to protest, we’ve been seeing receiving questions about protest health and safety, as well as a lot of misinformation. Here’s a quick guide on how to care for yourself and others at a demo
- Rest, eat, and drink water. Use the bathroom. Light/moderate exercise
- Modify substance use so as to feel at your strongest
- Make a plan with your buddy or group (but have 1-2 buddies you always stay with, ideally from within your germ bubble)
- Pack your protest kit: water, snack, face mask or bandana, goggles, PHONE (locked, with vital numbers including your buddy and emergency contacts), your needed rescue medications (inhaler, epipen, herbs for anxiety, etc) eyeflush bottle and any other first aid supplies, clothing layers
At the demo:
- stay with your buddy. ALWAYS. Make and revise a meetup plan
- cover your mouth and nose, goggles when chemical weapons come out (or all the time to prevent spread of COVID)
- drink water, eat snacks, take pause breaks
- help out your friends and strangers. Ask for and offer help
- when you or someone else needs medical assistance, look for a duct tape cross or shout “MEDIC”
- Make sure you’re safe (gloves, mask, goggles; where are the cops?)
- Move person to safety.
- Water or liquid-Antacid-and-water (LAW), * forcefully flushed into eyes. (“Don’t touch your eyes”)
- Shout “medic” for additional help (asthma, can’t breathe, injured, etc.)
[*NOT baking soda, NOT vinegar, NOT gasoline, NOT milk (potential benefit but can rot and is difficult to flush), NOT anything but water or ‘LAW’. If you want to read up on a semi-experimental study on LAW and water, visit the Black Cross website. This study is outdated, but not recently reproduced]
After the Demo
- Take a cool to tepid shower once you’re home/somewhere safe.
- Wash or discard clothes immediately
- Get more rest. Eat and drink water, tea.
- Consider herbs from the mallow family, calendula, mullein, or herbs that make you feel nice
ADDITIONAL MEASURES TO PROTECT HIGH RISK FAMILY, FRIENDS, AND COWORKERS:
Being out with 10-15k people is awesome! But it also means that we’re exposed to all those people’s illnesses, including COVID 19. On the upside, we’re outside and most of us are wearing masks to cover mouth and nose. Some of us are wearing goggles, which protects our eyes–another likely route of transmission. That said, protesting in crowds is inherently unsafe, and it is likely that some of us will bring COVID 19 home with us, and it is vitally important that we protect the people in our lives most vulnerable to infectious disease (elders, people with diabetes, heart or lung diseases, autoimmune conditions, or immune system compromise). Here are some ways we can do this:
- Increase physical distance, wear a mask, consider relocating or cohorting with people you’re protesting with.
- Wash and sanitize your hands and common surfaces consistently, before and after eating, cooking, using the bathroom, etc.
- Additional measures:consider wearing a face mask in the house
- cover your cough with a sleeve
- cook and eat separately
- cook all shared foods