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Boston Area Liberation Medic (BALM) Squad

Providing Medical Coverage for Progressive Actions in Boston and Beyond


For Boston area activists and street medics:
As political activism increases in Boston, so does the need for street medics. There hasn't been as much organized medic activity in the last few years, but that could change.

Street medics and people interested in becoming street medics will be gathering to talk about upcoming major actions in Boston, putting together a street medic trainings and other radical first aid work we could do together.

Thursday January 18th at 6:30pm
Location: The Democracy Center, 45 Mt. Auburn in Cambridge, directions at

If you are interested in medic work, but cannot attend this meeting please contact Also, if you would like your schedule considered when we pick the next meeting date, please contact with your availability for the next month. We'll do our best to make the next meeting work for as many people as possible.

The BALM Squad is offering "What Every Protestor Should Know" workshops to social justice organizations throughout New England to help activists and protestors prepare for upcoming actions. For more information, see our Training section. To schedule a workshop for your organization or to receive more information, please contact the BALM Squad at or 857-891-1666.

Site Contents

BALM Squad Home

What Do Street Medics Do?


The BALM Library

Street Medic Links

Medics in the News

Contact Us

Upcoming Events

Watch this space for future announcements of actions, gatherings and other events of interest to street medics and other progressive/radical activists.

Ongoing Hurricane Katrina Relief Efforts

Members of the action-medical community have responded to the tragedy of Hurricane Katrina by going to Algiers, a neighborhood of New Orleans, and helping to set up and staff the Common Ground Health Clinic. Donated supplies and volunteer medical personnel have been put to good use helping the people of Algiers and surrounding areas. The Bay Area Radical Health Collective (BARHC) has a Hurricane Katrina section on their Web site that you can visit for on-the-ground reports from the Common Ground Health Clinic, health information for residents and care providers in areas affected by Katrina, and other related information on Katrina and various relief efforts.

Grassroots Organizations Need Your Help Too

People across the U.S. and around the world have been generous in organizing benefits and donating money and material goods to help those displaced by the hurricane and its aftermath. There are many local grassroots and progressive organizations that are working hard to help people in New Orleans and other communities affected by the hurricane that could use help. Links to lists of these resources can be found on the BARHC Web site.

Thank you, BARHC, for your collective efforts in gathering information and providing medical support to people in need in New Orleans and surrounding communities!

Health Information for Cold-Weather Actions

Check out the following info sheets to help you stay warm and healthy in the streets this winter!

Street Medic's Guide to Hypothermia - A list of the causes, warning signs, preventive measures, and basic treatment for hypothermia. A must-read before attending cold-weather protests!

Stay Healthy So You Can Stay in the Streets PDF version - General health and safety information for protestors before, during and after a demonstration, formatted for single-page, double-sided printing.

For more information about how to care for yourself and your friends on the streets, see The BALM Squad Library.

The BALM Squad Statement on Sexual Violence

On March 28, 2003, the BALM Squad released the following statement regarding sexual violence in the activist community:

Sexual violence and oppression violate individuals as well as the values of our organization. The Boston Area Liberation Medic Squad (BALM Squad) works to promote the health and well-being of activists at progressive demonstrations and beyond. We will not tolerate sexual assault or harassment within our organization or within the larger progressive political movement.

Sexual violence has recently become a prominent issue in the Boston activist community. To further education, discussion and action related to this issue, we will:

  • address all incidences of sexual harassment and assault as directly and immediately as possible
  • educate ourselves about sexual violence and work to address this issue in our workshops and trainings
  • work with others to develop a Boston activist community that:
    1. recognizes the social and political dynamics underlying sexual violence,
    2. engages in active discussion about sexual violence and how it impacts our community, and
    3. creates a network of resources and support for survivors.

What is the BALM Squad?

The Boston Area Liberation Medic (BALM) Squad is an all-volunteer, non-hierarchical, consensus-run organization that aims to provide medical support, by all means at our individual and collective disposal, at progressive demonstrations and direct actions. We also seek to facilitate the dissemination of medical knowledge for the empowerment of the progressive community. We value diversity in both our own organization and in the larger struggle against oppression.

The BALM Squad has been active since the Fall of 2001. Our members have varying levels of medical training and street medic experience and work with several different healing modalities. We offer the following health-related services to the progressive community:

  • On-site health care support at progressive demonstrations. This includes clinic staff as well as medics on the street.

    We provided and helped coordinate street medic coverage for the 2004 Democratic National Convention in Boston. We also went to the FTAA protests in Miami in 2003, and have attended other large demonstrations on the East Coast. We will continue to cover political actions and related events as they occur.

  • Talks and classes for activists on health, street first aid, and related topics. We have given numerous health and safety classes and talks to activists preparing for demonstrations, civil disobedience, direct actions, and peacekeeping activities in other countries. We also sponsor street medic courses and special classes on related topics such as herbal healing. For more information about BALM's classes, click here.

  • Free health clinics for progressive causes. BALM Squad members and their colleagues organized and staffed free health clinics for janitors and their families during the Justice for Janitors strike in the Fall of 2002.

  • Health care-related political actions. As street medics, we are concerned about access to adequate and affordable health care, both on and off the streets. Therefore, we plan to take part in political actions that are related to improving public health care.

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What Do Street Medics Do?

Street medics are activists who are trained to provide basic first aid and emergency care to people on the streets at rallies, mass demonstrations, marches, and sites of civil disobedience or direct action. In addition, they often provide education in health and safety issues to activists, train people to be street medics or affinity group medics, and provide aftercare to participants in mass demonstrations and other progressive actions. Street medics are usually found on the streets during marches and rallies (as the name suggests), but they may also staff a stationary or mobile clinic at larger demonstrations and other gatherings.

Street medics and medic collectives are also concerned about the ongoing health needs of the people in their communities. While demonstrations and other progressive actions are a large part of what we do, street medics also participate in other health-related activities between demonstrations. This includes activities such as organizing and staffing free health clinics, working with organizations that offer free health care to homeless people, and supporting local, state, and national efforts to improve access to health care for all people.

You can become a street medic by attending and completing a street medic training program and then practicing your skills at progressive actions along with other street medics. The BALM Squad occasionally offers street medic training and affinity group medic training sessions. We can also refer you to qualified trainers and street medic collectives in other states and regions.

For more information about street medics, see this article by Matt Bivens that originally appeared in The Nation, and this article by Michael Blanding in "The Boston Phoenix", or visit the Web sites listed in our Street Medic Links section.

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In addition to providing various health care-related services to the progressive community, the BALM Squad also offers talks and training courses to activists and other interested people. The classes we offer are described below.

  • What Every Protester Should Know workshops are offered to activists in preparation for various types of progressive actions. These classes are usually a combination of instruction and skills practice. This workshop addresses issues such as what to bring (and not bring) to demonstrations, preparing for a demonstration, treating chemical weapons exposure, preparing appropriately for weather conditions, and physical and psychological aftercare following demonstrations and other actions. We can also customize the content of the workshop to meet the needs of specific audiences (people preparing for direct action and civil disobedience, serving as peacekeepers in violent situations, etc.). This workshop usually lasts 2-3 hours, but we can present a condensed 1-hour class if needed. Please contact us for more information and to schedule a "What Every Protester Should Know" workshop for your organization.

  • Street Medic training classes are taught by experienced trainers with assistance from BALM Squad members. Street medic training typically takes place over a weekend (two full days plus an evening session). This course provides training in basic first aid, chemical weapons decontamination, emotional support, and street medic logistics. Course materials are provided. You do not need any prior health care training or experience to become a street medic.

  • Special training classes are occasionally organized by the BALM Squad. We sponsored an Herbal Healing for Activists course in 2001, and we plan to organize other classes in areas of interest to street medics and others in the future.

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The BALM Squad Library

The following is a collection of health and medical documents produced by street medics for the benefit of the activist community.

Note: The HTML versions of these documents are best for reading online. The PDF versions are best for printing and sharing with others.

Stay Healthy So You Can Stay In the Streets PDF version and HTML version - This sheet includes information you can use when preparing for a demonstration or other action, things to do and be aware of during an action, and ways to take care of yourself after the protests are over.

Spanish Phrase Book for First-Aid Trained Activists - A small Spanish phrase book in PDF that contains translations of many common street medic phrases, words for parts of the body, and other basic Spanish vocabulary words. An excellent resource by coqui for non-Spanish speakers. PDF only.

Street Medic's Guide to Hypothermia PDF version and HTML version - A list of the causes, warning signs, preventive measures, and basic treatment for hypothermia. A must-read before attending cold-weather protests!

IT'S HOT! IT'S HUMID! IT'S SUNNY! Information on heat and sun-related illnesses PDF version and HTML version - Information about symptoms and treatment of dehydration, sunburn, heat cramps, heat syncope (fainting), heat exhaustion, and heat stroke, plus tips for prevention and information about fluid replacement.

Staying Healthy for Civil Disobedience Actions PDF version and HTML version - A list of things to consider when preparing to take part in civil disobedience actions or direct action with a high risk of arrest.

SHIT! WE'RE GONNA GET ARRESTED! PDF version and HTML version - A list of things to do to prepare for being arrested at a protest or other action. This condensed version of the "Staying Healthy for Civil Disobedience Actions" sheet is a quick reference for use when it looks like you and your friends are about to be arrested. PDF version is formatted for double-sided printing.

Responding to Critical Incident Stress in Protests and Mass Mobilizations PDF version and HTML version - An excellent resource on psychological trauma/critical incident stress by an activist and clinical psychologist.

DNC Medical Organizing Information Archive - In the summer of 2004, the BALM Squad organized medical support for the DNC protests in Boston. Our DNC Medics page and associated pages posted on behalf of the DNC Medical Organizing Group are being maintained here for reference and archival purposes.

Street Medic Training materials are now available on this site.

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Street Medic Links

Action-Medical Web site - Excellent resource for information of interest to street medics.

Black Cross Health Collective - Portland, OR street medic collective site, and another good resource for street medic info. Not to be confused with the Anarchist Black Cross Network, which is a network of anti-prison and prisoner support groups.

Bay Area Radical Health Collective (BARHC) - San Francisco street medic collective site with health and safety documents for activists, local health resources, and links to other helpful sites.

DC Action Medical Network (DAMN) - Washington, DC street medic site. Includes street medic documents, very good information about DC resources, links, etc.

Medical Activists of New York (MANY) - New York City street medic site, includes announcements, links, resources.

Star of Resistance Medics (STORM-NYC) - Another New York City street medic site, including news, documents, local resources, etc.

Three Rivers Action Medics (TRAM) - Pittsburgh area street medic site.

UK Action Medics - Web site for UK medics.

Urgence Manif - Quebec City street medics site.

Healing Trauma for Activists - Excellent list of resources on psychological aftercare and healing from Critical Incident Stress and psychological trauma. See also Andrew Rose's Trauma Overview page on Starhawk's site.

Handcuff Injury Aftercare - Detailed info about handcuff injuries and treatment from the library.

A Legal Guide For Transgendered, Transsexual, Intersexed and Genderqueer Activists - Information about preparing for protests and other progressive actions, from the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty's Legal Guide.
See also the Legal Guide For Activists With Physical Disabilities and Health Issues.
Note: The two Legal Guides above were compiled by the Toronto Common Front Legal Posse. They are accurate in Ontario, Canada as of September 2001. The information provided in these pages is not legal advice, it is direct action and political advice. If you are arrested, believe you are going to be arrested, or have specific legal questions, please see a lawyer.

Kirsten Anderberg's series on kids and protests:

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Street Medics in the News

This is a list of articles about street medics. This list is continually subject to change. Both alternative and mainstream media sources are listed.

"Meet the BALM Squad" by Eoin O'Carroll on AlterNet. This August 2004 article focuses on the BALM Squad and its role in organizing medical support for the 2004 DNC protests.

"The Street Medics" by Matt Bivens. This article originally appeared in The Nation. and is reposted on this site by permission from The Nation's editorial staff.

"Medic!" by Michael Blanding in The Boston Phoenix

"Street Medicine: Volunteers for Pepper Spraying?" by Kirsten Anderberg, posted on

"Dangerous Medicine" by Forrest Norman in the Miami New Times online

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How to Contact the BALM Squad

  • To request medics at an event...
  • To find out about our next scheduled medic trainings...
  • For information on health and safety workshops...

Contact us at or call us at 857-891-1666 and leave a message. We will respond to your inquiry as soon as possible.

How You Can Help the BALM Squad

We also appreciate donations of supplies and money to support our work in the community. Contact us at the e-mail address or phone number above for information about what we need and where to send donations to the BALM Squad.

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This page last updated: 1/22/2006