Street medics, or action medics, are volunteers with varying degrees of medical training who attend protests and demonstrations to provide medical care such as first aid. Unlike regular emergency medical technicians, who work for state-sponsored institutions, street medics operate as civilians, and are not protected from arrest.
Sometimes an affinity group will include one or more trained street medics to attend specifically to members of that group.
Street medics do not just deal with protesters in the streets. Some street medic collectives do heathcare related projects in their communities and abroad. Street medics run the Green Cross, a low-income herbal health clinic in northern California; clinics on the Pine Ridge, Big Mountain, and Rosebud Indian Reservations are run by AIM StreetMedics; a wellness clinic for migrant workers in Montana; and a temporary family practice clinic for striking janitors in Boston, MA. A group of street medics founded the Common Ground Health Clinic, a free integrative primary health care clinic in New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.
Many street medics have pursued further medical training, most commonly in nursing, emergency medicine, and herbalism. There are street medics employed in almost every field of medicine and rescue, including surgery, family practice medicine, psychiatry, research, both classical and traditional Chinese medicine, first aid instruction, fire-fighting, and wilderness medicine.
Street medics originated in the U.S. during the African-American Civil Rights Movement and anti-war movement in the 1960s. They conceived of medicine as self-defense, and provided medical support to the American Indian Movement (AIM), Vietnam Veterans Against the War (VVAW), Young Lords Party, Black Panther Party, and other revolutionary formations of the 1960s and 1970s. Street medics were also involved in free clinics developed by the groups they supported. The street medic pepper spray removal protocol (MOfibA - Mineral Oil Followed Immediately by Alcohol) was later adopted by the U.S. Military.
In the 1980s, "action support," including medical support of long marches in the No Nukes and Indigenous Sovereignty movements, was provided by non-street medics. One of these action support groups, Seeds Of Peace, (formed in 1986), stopped offering medical support as the street medics re-emerged.
Street medics were active on a small scale during the movement in opposition to Operation Desert Storm (1990–1991). They were rejuvenated on a large scale during the 1999 Meeting of the World Trade Organization, when street medics attended to protesters who were injured by police and use of chemical weapons such as pepper spray and tear gas.
In the aftermath of the WTO Meeting, protest sympathizers and/or attendees organized street medic trainings nationwide in preparation for the next round of anti-globalization marches.