A Political Medicine: Notes toward the Abstract

This paper examines the politics and practices of street medics in Ferguson, St. Louis, and Clayton, Missouri during the first hundred days of protest after Officer Darren Wilson shot the black youth Michael Brown dead in the street last August. Sources of data include participant observation, 18 primary-source internal documents, recorded interviews with eight participants, blog posts and newsletter articles, and mass media news.

Definition

Street medics are a loose confederation of people and groups that habitually provide first aid, peer support, and health education at militant protests. Street medics generally share ethics, a basic level of training provided by other street medics, and an anarchist hostility to coersion. In the United States, street medics have traditionally been most attracted to militant actions against racism and police impunity, war and militarism, resource extraction and environmental injustice, and neoliberal capitalism.

Thesis

In the St. Louis metropolitan area during the the first hundred days of unrest after Michael Brown's death, street medics built relationships, served friends, served each other, and gave sanctuary. Sharing an anarchist stance of militant hostility to coercion, street medics acted along already-political lines and becoming-political lines to undermine their own depoliticizing/coercive potential and the depoliticizing/coercive powers of fear, injury, and police force. Our data suggest that the presence of street medics helped people become political and build power.

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