"In the early days [of Occupy], this felt like something we do," said Errico. "The convergence model, the clinic, lots of friends around lots of cops. It felt very familiar."
But as Occupy progressed, licensed, professionally trained doctors and nurses wanted to help with the medic tent, too. It created a dynamic that street medics weren't used to.
Typically, street medics were united in their stances against, for example, neo-liberalism or free trade. "Those people go to protests and realize that there's a need for street medics and then seek out training," says Charlotte. "At Occupy, instead, you have nurses and EMTs who are on the front lines of dealing with poverty and inequality in this country, and those are the people who because of their work are actually coming out to protest . . . . You have people who are in the medical industry and realizing how flawed it is and how it's not reaching all of these people, so they are now coming out to protest."
In a way, Occupy was a crash-course in radicalism for different cross-sections of protesters, young and old — even medical professionals. Medics like Peter Cannon had to give "bridge trainings" to nurses, doctors, and EMTs: three-hour lessons on the history and ethics of street medicine, plus quick overviews of specifically protest-related tactics.
Post-Occupy, almost 50 years after she helped coin the term "street medic," Hirschman now teaches more bridge trainings than ever. She says that these days, professional medical workers inspired by the Occupy movement need to learn the political realities that street medics are more familiar with.
"Right now we're working with street medics as the leadership," she says, "which is definitely different from what we started with back in the 1960s."
Liz Pelly can be reached at lpelly[a]phx.com.