Mx. Bardus estimated that over the past two weeks they have treated 150 to 200 people, most frequently for chemical irritants, and called for an ambulance several times, although emergency medical technicians were not always able to reach injured people through the crowds, highlighting the important role of street medics.
On May 28, Mx. Bardus said that they were with a group of peaceful protesters when police started to “bombard them with mace and pepper spray.”
“I treated the same guy three times in 15 minutes,” Mx. Bardus said. “I’ve never in my life seen a protester take chemical irritants like that and just pop back up and go right back. They were very, very resilient. They were determined.”
Darien Belemu, a graduate student at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, said that the possibility that an emergency responder might not be able to reach a protester in time was one of his main motivations for working as a street medic at protests in New York. Mr. Belemu has his EMT-B certification, and took a bridge street-medic training course, designed for people who had medical experience, from a coalition in New York.
“I see a lot of 20-year-old, 19-year-old kids that are acting, I think, really heroically and standing up to the police and making sure they know they’re not OK with police brutality,” Mr. Belemu said. “It scares me to think that somebody is not going to get treatment, especially if they have a head wound and it’s going to affect their ability to live a normal, healthy life.”
Mr. Belemu said he treated a protester on May 30 whom police had pepper-sprayed directly in the face. When the protester turned to run away, Mr. Belemu said, an officer hit the protester at the base of the skull with a baton. By the time Mr. Belemu reached him, the protester was bleeding profusely.
“That’s where your brain stem is, and any swelling there could threaten a person’s ability to breathe, or it could stop their heart,” Mr. Belemu said. “That was a very scary situation.” Mr. Belemu and a nearby medical worker cared for the protester and urged him to go to the hospital immediately if he vomited or developed a throbbing headache.