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Stay Healthy So You Can Stay in the Streets

Some suggestions from the Street Medics on what you can do to stay healthy before, during and after the demonstrations against the FTAA.

As Soon As You Can:

  • See below for suggestions on what to bring and what to wear.
  • Make sure you have solid housing plans. Housing will be tight in Miami, so set it up as soon as possible. See for housing resources.
  • Set up your emotional support system now. If you can, have a few days free when you get back from the demos, since you might need time to process what you experienced, catch up on sleep, and just generally relax.
  • Set up legal support now. There will be legal support in Miami, but it helps to have folks you know who have the following information: who should be contacted if you are arrested, any medications, food or other needs you may have in jail; any responsibilities that need to be taken care of if you don't get home as planned (work, animals, etc) and whatever other info seems relevant.
  • Consider talking with someone about your hopes, fears and expectations. By talking through what could happen and how you might respond you can prepare yourself for any difficult situations that might come up.

Don't Forget the Basics:

  • Don't wear contact lenses since they can trap chemicals (tear gas, pepper spray) against your eyes, causing permanent damage.
  • Do your best to get enough sleep.
  • Eat healthy foods, and be sure that you eat enough. Try to avoid fatty or fried foods since they stress your liver (see chem weapons below.)
  • Drink enough water—at least 3 liters (0.8 gallons) a day. You can get dehydrated easily in the heat and humidity, especially if you are coming from a different climate. Start drinking extra water several days before the demos to build up the fluid in your body.
  • Minimize caffeine, cigarettes, alcohol and other drugs. They stress your system and may make you more vulnerable.
  • Protect yourself from mosquitos. There are lots of them in Miami.
  • Learn more about how to protect yourself and others by attending a health and safety training before the demonstrations. Street medics will also be offering longer trainings to anyone interested. Info on trainings will be posted at the convergence center, or you come to the medic treatment space (commonly known as the "clinic").
  • Relax, focus, center. If you have something you use to relax yourself (music, meditation, whatever) consider doing this on the days leading up to and the days of the protests.

What to Wear:

  • Wear clothing that protects your skin from sun, chemical weapons and injury. Consider long sleeves, pants, and a water-repellent outer layer. You can cinch clothing at wrists and ankles to keep chemicals out. Beware of overheating and getting dehydrated in all these clothes.
  • Some people believe that detergents trap chemicals in clothes, so consider washing your skin and clothes in castile soap before the demonstration.
  • Wear sturdy closed-toe shoes that are well broken in. An additional pair of socks will help prevent blisters. Bring extra socks in case your feet get wet or dirty.
  • Protect your nose, mouth and lungs. Gas masks can be heavy, conspicuous and very hot, but they work well. You can also use organic particle respirators at hardware stores. Or try a bandana soaked with apple cider vinegar and protect your skin from irritation with a mask underneath. Other vinegars, and even lemon juice and water, don't work as well but are better than nothing.
  • To protect your eyes use shatter-proof goggles, ski goggles or something else that forms a tight plastic seal (no foam, as this traps chemicals).
  • Wear sunscreen. if you need it. Oil-based sunscreens may trap chemicals on your skin, so try to use water-based sun screen.
  • Any product with oil in it (make up, moisturizer, etc.) may trap chemicals on your skin, so consider going with just water-based products.

What to Bring:

  • Water. Bring lots of water—at least 3 liters (0.8 gallons) a day—since many people will dehydrate quickly in the heat and humidity.
  • Food, especially high energy snacks
  • Any medications you take on a regular basis, in the original container along with a note from a doctor saying you must take this medication. Come to the medic treatment space if you need help getting a note.
  • Any assistance devices you need (cane, etc) especially if you would need these in the event of arrest.
  • A map.
  • Money, if you are concerned about getting arrested and might want to bail yourself out.
  • A camera, if you might want to document police actions or the demonstrations. Be aware that many protestors do not want their photos taken.
  • Extra water-based sunscreen, since you'll probably sweat off the first coat pretty quickly.
  • A buddy! If you can, run with another person so you can protect and help each other. Talk with your buddy about how you are feeling, what is likely cause you stress, what you do to calm yourself down and how your buddy can help with that, and what you want to do if things get messy. Even better, work within an affinity group so you have a larger posse that can support you.

What to Know:

  • The police use fear as a weapon. The more prepared you are, the less they can intimidate and control you.
  • The layout of the area. Think ahead about where you will go if there's trouble. Make a plan with your group about where you will meet if you get separated. As you move keep an exit plan in mind.
  • The plan for the demonstration and your group, as much as possible.
  • The attitude of the cops, and how they might respond to protestors. Pay attention to what they are doing, where they are moving and what equipment they are carrying.
  • How to contact legal help if you are arrested or otherwise detained. Write the legal contact number in indelible ink on your skin, in a place where you could see it when handcuffed.
  • Where the medic treatment space (commonly known as the "clinic") is (see below), and where medics are as you move through the streets.

During the Demonstration:

  • Drink lots of water. Really. Dehydration is dangerous. Prevent it.
  • Take breaks to eat and relax.
  • Stay calm. If you get stressed take a minute to relax.

If You are Exposed to Chemical Weapons:

  • If you have asthma or other breathing problems, chemical weapons may cause severe attacks. Carry your inhaler, or avoid chemical weapons altogether, if possible.
  • Don't panic. Calmly walk to fresh air - up on a hill, away from the crowds, etc.
  • Even if you don't feel affected by the chemicals the longer you stay in the gas the sicker you could get in the long run.
  • The horrible burning feeling is usually temporary. It lasts 20 - 30 minutes if it is not washed off with water.
  • Call for a medic, or someone who knows how to do an eye flush. Learn how to do an eye flush at a health and safety training.
  • As soon as possible, get out of your contaminated clothes. Put your clothes in a sealed bag and either throw them away or wash them later, several times, in harsh detergent. Shower in the coldest water you can tolerate, using lots of soap. Keep doing this for a few days, since warm water can re-activate any chemicals on your skin. We hope to have decontamination facilities available at the medic treatment space (commonly known as the "clinic").
  • After the immediate effects have passed, take it easy. You have just been exposed to toxic chemicals, and your body needs time to recover. Drink lots of water. Avoid putting more stress on your liver with alcohol and drugs.
  • Long term effects of chemical weapons exposure include damage to the immune system and liver, menstrual disruption, possible spontanous abortion and respiratory problems.

If You Get Hurt or Sick:

  • The street medics are here to help. We are a volunteer group of activists who have come from around the world to support protestors. We are trained to deal with the most common problems encountered during political protests. We can offer everything from basic first aid to more advanced care, including herbal medicine and other therapies. Look for folks with red crosses on their clothes, or call out "medic!" or "socorrista!" or "help!" We'll do all we can to help.
  • You can also come to the medic treatment space for medical attention. Ask at the convergence center where the treatment space is located, or flag down some medics and ask them.
  • If you can't find a medic, get away from the action and consider getting other help.

After the Demonstration:

  • For many people demonstrations are exciting and exhilarating. But even the most prepared and seasoned protestor can get traumatized. Even if you don't feel stressed take it easy for a few days after the demonstration. Your body and mind have been through an intense experience and need time to recover.
  • If you have been a part of, or have witnessed, traumatic events you may have strong emotional reactions to this experience. If you can, talk over your experiences with people you trust as soon as possible. Talking about the specifics of what happened might cause more emotional trauma, so consider focusing more on how you feel. Try to do this before sleeping.
  • Eat nourishing food, get some sleep (after talking), do whatever helps you relax.
  • Try to avoid alcohol, cigarettes and other drugs, since these can increase your emotional responses to the trauma.
  • Even if you don't feel terribly stressed you may have nightmares, a short temper or other reactions. This is very common, and may also be a sign that you might benefit from talking about the emotions brought up by your experience.

For More Information:
See or

Street Medics • Socorristas Para Los Manifestantes
For the people • Against the FTAA
Para la gente • Contra el ALCA

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This document produced by the Boston Area Liberation Medic (BALM) Squad

This page last updated: 11/11/2003