Street Medics Illegally Detained and Harassed by FEMA in Hurricane Relief Campaign
by Petros Evdokas
Portland Street Medics member
You might be aware of the situation that evolved on Sunday, September
21st during which a mission of volunteer Street Medics from Colorado
arrived in Galveston, Texas, to provide free medical care to the
communities struck by the hurricanes. The mission was oriented with a
special interest to address the needs of indigenous, poor and
undocumented people whose needs are in general ignored by "official"
rescue operations. Also, these are communities of people who often
have good have reasons to avoid or hide from such "rescue" operations,
especially if they are occurring under martial law and in conjunction
with immigration Police.
Instead of being integrated by authorities into the efforts, or at
least left to their own devices in order to provide help to people,
the Street Medics were detained in dubious circumstances, harassed,
threatened with arrest and physically removed from the area by Police.
Please see a first hand account from one of the Street Medics
published this morning - the Medic speaking here is Zoe Hallez
Williams, known to the wider Medics family as "Zoe the Medic":
"...[The agent] spoke for well over 30 minutes about how no one needed our help and our training was worthless. He stepped outside and locked us in the room with the paramedic supervisor. She informed us that FEMA credentials would be required to enter any area hit hard by the Hurricane and that no one needed help–quite contrary to reports coming from undocumented workers fleeing FEMA and the rest of the federal government.
...Moments later a State Trooper and Galveston Police vehicle arrived.
Three officers were on scene. The trooper approached, demanded to see IDs and credentials and informed us we were being detained and
potentially arrested because we did not work for FEMA. While he ran
our IDs another officer began to document our vehicle. The officers
were abrasive, rude and...":
"How did we get to Shrimper's Row?"
The first breaking out of the Street Medics story in alternative media
yesterday is here:
Street Medics Harassed by Police & FEMA during Hurricane Ike Relief
Mainstream and establishment media are still ignoring or burying the
news about FEMA harassment of Street Medics, even though a few days
ago the media themselves were targeted when the iron curtain of the
military police state came down on them as the area over Galveston and
Bolivar in Texas were declared to be a "no fly zone" (just like Iraq
before the US invasion) by a source within the shadow Government which even the Governor of Texas was not at liberty to name. Mainstream media complained about this illegal restriction of Constitutional liberties - you might have seen that report by ABC here:
Our colleagues, the three Street Medics who were targeted by this
harassment in the Galveston incident are exceptionally well-trained
healthcare workers. Two are veterans of the grassroots relief efforts
after Katrina, plus all of them are recent veterans of the tremendous
organizational challenge faced by Street Medics in Denver during the
Democratic National Convention protests - they had helped put together
and operate a network and support mechanism of Street Medics that
aimed to ensure our safety and liberty as we provided medical care to
people who were injured by Police or became ill in the streets, in the
parks and in jail during the events there in late August.
Skills among them include First Responder training and certified
nurse's aid skills - the latter means providing some very personal
care to people who are unable to take care of themselves; it is the
most crucial work in healthcare which usually no one wants to do, and
which very few are capable to do with the right attitude. First
Responder skills include assessing and handling unexpected medical
emergencies in both wilderness and urban settings.
The most important part of the Street Medics training is a set of
skills, social and personal values and principles which is only taught
and learned among Street Medics who are active within the Peace and
Justice wings of the liberation movement: how to provide first aid and
some forms of aftercare in settings where there is conflict, disaster,
or danger, in situations where conventional ambulances, emergency
medical technicians, paramedics, rescue workers are unable, unwilling
or not allowed to go. These situations include riots, street
conflicts, scenes of mass violence, or large assemblies such as
marches, parades, demonstrations, etc.
Street Medics abide by a code of ethics which is far more stringent,
mindful, all-embracing and inclusive than Corporate or State-
sponsored paramedic teams are expected to have: we embrace
anti-authoritarian principles, awareness of oppression, we are guided
by the politics of solidarity and community self-organizing in
everything we do, with special attention to how racism, sexism,
homophobia, issues of gender and sexual identity politics play a
tremendous role in all sorts of interactions within healthcare and
first aid. That's why our charter as Street Medics comes from the
liberation Movement's counter-institutions powered by the people and
not from Capital or the State.
It's also the reason why the Corporate State opposes our presence and
interferes with most of our operations wherever it gets a chance.
Things You Can Do To Help
If you're into writing letters or making phonecalls to officials,
politicians, policy makers, media please help us by doing exactly
Here's some contact information:
The Texas Division of Emergency Management
5805 N. Lamar
Austin, Texas 78752
(512) 424-2444 or 7160 FAX
Contact the National Offices of FEMA here:
Telephone: 1 (800) 621-FEMA (3362)
TDD: 1 (800) 462-7585
Fax: 1 (800) 827-8112
You can also help us by distributing this story plus all the related
materials on this page to online open publishing sources, media
contacts, email lists of organizations and friends in your address
Helping with Supplies and Finances
Money and Supplies are crucial to the rescue efforts. Please keep
visiting these pages for the updated list of needed supplies and ways
to send them:
Right now the best we have is this announcement:
"Please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org for a mailing address for
donations or to set up a pick up." More instructions and specifics
will follow as things get better arranged.
Due to the illegal harassment by authorities, the Street Medics were
forced to move the relief operation to another hurricane-struck area
in Dulac, Louisiana.
The new location they're in is between normality and disaster.
According to Bryan Garcia, one of the Street Medics, some services
exist in Dulac, some don't. Food is still being distributed in the
streets, there's piles of mud and filth around, phone reception is
tricky, a few miles down the road there's no electricity, and some
places still don't have water. Postal deliveries are not necessarily
normalized for every location there, but our friends are going to make
some arrangements and we'll have a way for deliveries established
The Colorado Street Medics' long journey to setting up clinic in Dulac
is documented in a series of updates just posted on their website,
but the team's access to the internet is not guaranteed and updates
may be irregular.
The new location in Dulac was worked out in co-operation with the Four
Directions Indigenous Solidarity Network:
whose network in Dulac operates a grass roots backyard Free Store, a
community center from which basic supplies are distributed to the
community. Here's a link to an eight minute video about the Free Store
and its role in community-based grass roots relief efforts. The video
is a brilliant mix of documentary and visual poetry that captures the
spirit of co-operation, community pride and love in action that flows
out of the Four Directions Free Store in Dulac:
And a related update from the Street Medics:
At this point, the two most important necessities are:
- to help create a political climate that generates a "Hands Off the
Street Medics" safety net and support network, so that illegitimate
authorities will think twice before interfering again with the relief
- to ensure a steady stream of supplies and money to the mission so
that it will be able to address the health needs of the indigenous,
poor and undocumented people in the community. This is the population
toward whom the Street Medics intend to give their primary attention.
Please give your political and material support generously to this
volunteer mission. It's the real thing: worthy, honourable,
volunteer, Portland Street Medics
Some Related Materials
How did we get to Shrimper's Row?
Four Directions Indigenous Solidarity Network:
Accomplishments in Louisiana
Portland Street Medics
Arrested Street Medic Speaks - Press Release