Street Medics Describe Injuries and Other Hazards at the RNC Protests Kathlyn Stone

Volunteer street medics were among those pepper sprayed and arrested while aiding demonstrators during the Republican National Convention in St. Paul, MN Sept. 1-5.

St. Paul, Sep 7, 2008 — Many dozens of volunteers — activists as well as doctors, nurses, EMTs, psychologists and other health workers — stepped in to serve as "street medics" during the RNC demonstrations that concluded with more than 800 arrests.

Political events, particularly national conventions, are a big draw for demonstrators because of the national and international focus placed on them. And the heavy police presence promised at the RNC in St. Paul this past week was like honey to a bee for those who sought altercations with police. In almost all cases, tensions mounted between demonstrators in the evenings following permitted marches and other events such as rallies and concerts.

Many who volunteer as street medics are themselves activists or are at least sympathetic to demonstrators wishing to exercise their right to free speech or commit civil acts of disobedience. Sometimes groups of non-violent protesters were caught between police and violent protesters with no avenue of escape. And sometimes non-violent protesters simply refused to leave and were sprayed with chemicals or rubber bullets.

Medic testimony

Michael Cavlan, a registered nurse from Apple Valley, Minn., was one of those who volunteered to be on hand to offer medical help where needed. In a report of the injuries and the arrests described in an article published at OEN, Cavlan, a Green Party candidate for the U.S. Senate, describes numerous injuries from chemicals, rubber bullets and concussion grenades, as well confiscation of medical equipment and arrests of health care volunteers.

From Cavlan's account of the Poor People's March on Sept. 2:

"…At this time, the police gave a dispersal order. We knew what that meant. They threw gas and concussion grenades into the crowd and then opened up with rubber bullets, wooden baton rounds, tear gas, etc.

"My team treated another young lady who had been maced in the face and delivered her to the clinic, to get cleaned up from the burning chemicals in her face, eyes, arms and clothes. By the way, this stuff hurts even when you only put your exposed skin on someone who was hit by it."

Cavlan was also called upon to document injuries sustained by protesters who had been beaten by police.

The Twin Cities' North Star Health Collective (NSHC), a local group that coordinated media response during the protests, began training sessions for street medics weeks before the convention. On Sept. 5, NSHC representatives held a press conference denouncing the "police detention and abuse of medical volunteers." They also shared examples of the types of weapons used on protesters.

According to Sean McCoy, an EMT and Navy veteran, "My medic partner and I were treating a handicapped male in a wheelchair for pepper spray to the face at the parking lot of Jackson Street. In the process of treating the patient, we were surrounded by several police officers in riot gear and forcibly thrown to the ground and told we were under arrest. We were then forcibly removed from our patient, handcuffed, and forced to lay face down on the ground while the officers proceeded to cut our bags off of us and remove all of our medical gear by dumping it on the ground." NSHC said McCoy was held 55 hours in Ramsey County jail before being released.


Kathlyn Stone, "'Street medics' describe injuries and other hazards at the RNC protests." flesh and stone 07 September, 2008.

Listen to complete New Left Notes (NLN) interview with Michael Cavlan:
* Part 1:
* Part 2:

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