The Melbourne Street Medic Collective share their tips for staying safe and well at actions.
Common Protest Complaints
The majority of demonstrations pass without complication or injury.
- Sickness or fainting – due to dehydration, sun exposure or pre-existing medical problems
- Ankle and wrist sprains – consider wearing supportive shoes and try to prevent your hand being grabbed and twisted
- Panic attacks – always know where your buddy is and/or remove yourself from challenging situations you think are beyond your scope
- Breathing problems – always pack your medications/remove yourself from triggers
- Trauma such as head injuries and damage from physical blows – read the situation/ remove yourself from reach of aggressors/ keep it non-violent
- Irritating substances used to ‘disperse’ crowds such as Pepper Spray causing eye and respiratory problems – call for help and follow Street Medic instructions for irrigating eyes with LAW spray
- Nerve injury caused by handcuffs – decide if you are prepared to be arrested and participate in training for arrestable actions. If handcuffed ask for the cuffs to be loosened or double-locked to prevent tightening. Struggling can worsen nerve damage.
It is always important that you are ready and have the right gear at a rally as an individual. Some items are important for your personal safety and well being and others are in case you or someone around you gets in trouble with the police.
Here is a list of what to bring to a protest:
- A bottle of water or sports drink
- High energy, low-GI snacks (trail mix, museli bars, dried fruit)
- Your usual prescription medicines (3 days worth – so that if you are arrested you should have enough to cover you until you get bailed out)
- A camera, smart phone or a note pad (remember we’re ALL Citizen Journalists)
- A spare cell phone (or at least load up a new SIMcard)
- Enough cash to get home, have a meal and/or make a phone call.
- ID (if you plan on getting arrested not carrying ID will only temporarily delay the police in identifying you)
- A bandana or scarf, and eye protection
- Light water proof jacket or sun cream (or both if you live in Melbourne!)
- Next of kin/emergency contact numbers (or a legal contact penned to your arm)
This is a basic guide and can be added to. Each protest kit is going to be slightly different as they are personal – it also depends on the type of action you are attending, the risk of arrest or violence, and your own needs. As long as you have the basics it will help keep you out on the streets longer and help you with different situations you may be faced with during a protest.
Modeled on the street medic groups which have been active in the US since the late 1960s, Melbourne SMC came together through the Occupy movement in Melbourne. The collective is made up of qualified first aiders, medical and healing professionals.
- attends actions to provide preventative care, treat injuries and to respond to other physical and emotional needs
- helps community activists to operate in the safest possible environment, from the planning stages through to debriefing after events
- offers street medic workshops to assist activists prepare for future actions.
See Melbourne Street Medic Collective for more information and regular pro-tips.