On Thursday, November 17th, thousands of students gathered in Union Square Park as part of a mass strike in solidarity of the Occupy Wall Street Movement. Guest speakers from all the major NYC schools spoke about the inequality of the wealthy and rest of us. A CUNY student from the projects addressed how it used to be a free school for the under-privileged and that tuition has been increased as a result of each fiscal crisis. Pam, an administrator from The New School, came to tell us about an Occupy Wall Street Student Debt relief program launching on Monday. A speaker from the Egyptian Tahrir Square movement told us not to give up. And with that we moved to the streets, towards Foley Square, the crowd chanting, “Students and workers, shut the city down!”
Thousands were in the streets, walking south. Traffic was stopped. We marched down the middle of Canal Street. Multiple helicopters followed our movement overhead.
At Foley Square we met up with numerous other Occupy groups. Our numbers were large, over 5,000. We were gathering peacefully. But, at the borders of the park, there was a heavy police presence waiting in hard plastic riot gear.
I was tired and thirsty. I sat on a bench. There I met Adam, an Occupy Medic. He had a cross made of red duct tape on his sleeve. He handed me some water.
The Rumpus: Can you tell us what happened to the medic tent that was taken down in Zuccotti Park?
Adam: When the clinic was torn down—this is two military tents that were donated—we lost thousands and thousands of dollars of equipment, in actual cash donations, and also in patients’ personal, confidential records that we were keeping for them as we were running basically a road side walk-in clinic. As far as I know that is completely illegal. The police have no right to confiscate patients’ personal records. So it was quite a hit, quite a loss for Occupiers of all sorts.
Rumpus: What should folks do if they come into contact with tear gas or pepper spray?
Adam: To my knowledge the police have not been using tear gas, yet, in New York. Pepper spray definitely, everyone’s seen the footage of that. So I’m equipped to deal with that, the solution that we put together is an antacid and water mixture in a squirt bottle. If you get pepper-sprayed this solution will neutralize the burn, because the spray is a chemical burn. So this will neutralize that burn, a couple of squirts in each eye.
Rumpus: So what’s the solution made of?
Adam: Maalox and saline. And we have straight up saline, which is for cleaning wounds and things like that. And stuff to take care of abrasions and lacerations: gauze, wrapping tape. Today it’s cold out, and we have to deal with rain, so we have rain covers, ponchos for people, thermal blankets, little heater pads, some of us are even carrying around dry socks; just things to prevent mild hyperthermia. No one is going to get serious hyperthermia out here, but definitely the beginning stages of it can develop. We have cough lozenges; we have throat medicine, all over-the-counter. Some kits are more advanced than others. I had a fully decked out kit that I had to donate a couple of days ago after the camp was raided, because we were so low on supplies.
Rumpus: What would be in a full decked-out kit?
Adam: Exactly what you need for minor wound care. You’d also have what you need for any sort of chemical attack. Pepper spray, tear gas. You have things for burn care. Burns can occur when a victim is tased. If they are using tear gas, burns can happen if you pick up a canister and throw it. A canister can be very hot. You will have things like a flashlight to check the level of consciousness for people who could have some sort of brain injury, if someone has been hit in the head. The list goes on. Anything to help stabilize a person and get them to the hospital. We are not trying to cure anyone beyond our expertise here. Our job is to stabilize someone and if they need to go to the hospital, send them to the hospital, without question.
Rumpus: Stop the bleeding, stop the immediate pain, get them set up and get them on their way.
Adam: Exactly. You know like today, people are cold. Just providing them comfort and heating them up. And if the situation does get really stressful, you know if the police are being really aggressive, and people need some mental care, we are also here for that, we are here to help people and take care of them when they need it.
Rumpus: I feel mentally cared for. Do you have any cigarettes in there? Because I need a cigarette, I’m feeling stressed. I know, that’s the opposite of medical care…
Adam: We don’t advocate smoking, but some of our medics do smoke, so I’m sure you can find one.
All photos by the author.