DSA Medics is a national medic collective formed by street medics and socialist organizers looking to support the various political projects of rank and file DSA members. As recent events have unfolded, and with increasing political violence directed at leftist organizers, members of the national street medic community have begun to join DSA.
As a libertarian socialist organizer, a rank and file National Nurses United (NNU) member and street medic, I felt a sense of danger developing in the country this time last year. Once Trump was elected and we all saw and participated in the immediate resistance to his presidency, I knew that the left was at a turning point. Either we would organize and fight back or face oblivion. Searching for an organization that would put me in contact with as many like minded Americans as possible, I settled on the Democratic Socialists of America, because DSA was filling quickly with young organizers all across the country, and it was the first socialist organization in my experience that really valued internal, grassroots participatory democracy.
With the increasing tempo of marches, actions, pickets and strikes, the skills I picked up from my training and time working with Chicago Action Medical seemed more relevant than ever to the health and safety of our comrades. I would come to our marches, with my medic pack ready to help whoever needed it. As the 2017 DSA convention neared, I thought to myself, “What would happen when we finally brought over a thousand socialists together over an intense three days of politics, organizing, and events? What would happen if the largest gathering of socialists in my lifetime was targeted for political terror by either police or vigilantes?”
I applied for table space and contacted national DSA organizers as soon as I was able. We set up a health and wellness space, provided first aid to so many convention goers that we ran out of supplies such as slings and Band-Aids, herbal tea and condoms. Every day we helped keep people up and organizing that would have otherwise been too sick or too injured to meaningfully participate. We helped calm folks suffering from anxiety, deep depression, from the mental trauma of growing up in late capitalist America. The convention was one of the high points of my political life. I left with my medic comrades convinced that this was something DSA needed in all our chapters, and that DSA was our best hope for a better future.
Two weeks later, the terror attack at Charlottesville happened. It was stunning, yet galvanizing as well. Medics in DSA organized a working group and planned to start training folks in DSA chapters with significant security concerns. The approval for our working group never came, and we started searching for where would be the best place to get our first training off the ground. We reached out to Richmond DSA, which seemed to be at the center of DSA organizing around Charlottesville, and leaders in Richmond were relieved that DSA members outside their region were taking their concerns about safety seriously. We began the work of fundraising, procuring supplies, building a special curricula, and preparing to hold a training open to chapters in the region.
In the end, DSA members from six chapters participated, including Richmond, Charlottesville, Metro DC, West Virginia and North Carolina. We talked about more than basic first aid, and covered topics like peer support, burnout, de-escalation, accessibility, primary prevention of sexual assault, men’s power privilege and accountability, psychological mass casualty events, major trauma and the roll trainees would have in their chapter’s organizing work. We wrapped up the day-and-a-half training with a scenario where we simulated a statue take down protest that turns violent, giving folks an opportunity to practice their new skills. At the end, we met with the local medic collective (River City Medics) and sang a round of Solidarity Forever that shook the room. Folks were excited by the new skills they could take back and apply to almost every aspect of their chapter’s organizing including canvassing, mass meetings, and direct actions. We hope to have a similar training event open to all Midwest chapters here in Chicago.
To that end, Chicago DSA has invited DSA Medics to provide an affinity group medic (AGM) training on Saturday, February 24, and Sunday, February 25 to help DSA chapters from our region get the skills they need to help keep their members as safe as can be in the struggles to come.
Because we are member funded, we must raise funds independently of our chapters and national DSA. Please contribute what you can so everyone can benefit from the skills and materials we will be providing.
This training will be open to 20 members of DSA from chapters across the Midwest. Members from oppressed communities will be given top priority but anyone interested can apply. Members from other regions with significant immediate safety concerns will be considered if there are slots available. You can apply with the google form here. The application deadline is Sunday, February 4.
The training will be conducted by Chicago DSA Rapid Response Working Group street medics and trainers from Chicago Action Medical, as well as DSA Medics from across the country.
Materials and supplies provided as part of this training will include:
- A DSA medic handbook
- A BDS-compliant standard trauma kit
- A first aid medic bag
- A training patch specific to our region
Our trained medics will also have the benefit of the following developments:
- A DSA standard trauma kit that reduces training time for medics and preps each medic to deal with gunshot wounds and other penetrating traumas.
- A DSA medic training curricula that includes first aid but also activist support, sexual assault victim advocacy training, and training to support POC, LGBTQ and disabled DSA members in their political work.
- A psychological mass casualty training module that is the first in the country for protest medics, developed with input from the DSA Veterans working group and street medics who were present at Charlottesville to ensure victims of political terror are not vulnerable immediately in the aftermath of an attack or are left alone to deal with resulting mental health scars.
- Training in self care and medic support to provide the same kind of service that was provided to the DSA National Convention in August 2017 in the form of health and wellness support for the various physical and psychological injuries sustained during DSA’s increasingly large political events.