By 1968, as activism radicalized, some members of MPP grew disillusioned by its "elitism," and shifted their goals to making medical training more accessible to non-doctors. They started offering 20-hour, two-day courses to learn the basic first aid needed to help protesters at demos.
Ann Hirschman, a nurse practitioner, was there. Now 65 and living in New Jersey, she's been a street medic since 1965, working during the civil-rights and 1970s anti-war movements, and at Wounded Knee in '73.
"In '67, I had just graduated nursing school. I was going to demonstrations and noticed that there weren't enough [medical] professionals to go around," says Hirschman. "We figured out fairly early that we had to recruit people from around us to help. . . . There were not yet paramedics, there were not yet EMTs. This was the 1960s. So we made up a first-aid course that was very specific to demonstrations. . . . We literally created street medics."
Another central figure of the street-medic movement was Ron "Doc" Rosen, an activist who got his start as a member of the MCHR during the march on Selma, Alabama, in 1965. Eventually Rosen helped to start the first street-medic collective, based in Manhattan. The group regularly met at Rosen's Kung Fu studio on Broome Street; they coined the term "street medic."
Later in his life, Rosen moved to Colorado, where he helped establish the Colorado Street Medics collective in Denver.
His street-medic work through the 1970s and 1980s slowed down — as did radical activism in general during those decades. But Rosen helped pump life back into the street-medic movement in 1999, when he trained groups of new medics before and during Seattle's anti-globalization World Trade Organization protests. Over the next few years, thousands of street medics around the country started to once again regularly hold 20-hour trainings.
Errico leads such trainings often. Originally from Seattle, Errico has been a medic since high school, when he started going to demonstrations. "I got interested in the understanding that one of the ways for us to defend ourselves against the police was to treat the injuries they could inflict on us," he says.
He estimates that during a training, eight hours are spent learning how to give first aid for various injuries; how police weapons are deployed; how to treat pepper spray, tear gas, head injuries, and broken bones. Another six hours are spent on tactics and how to deploy skills in the street, and on psychological after-care. The remaining four hours or so are spent on scenarios simulating street situations.
Errico says he has used his medic skills at eco-defense campaigns in the Midwest and Northwest, and at Earth First campaigns all over the country. He has also worked in disaster relief — a week after the disaster in Haiti, he boarded a plane to Port-au-Prince with the Mutual Aid Disaster Relief Collective, a national street-medic organization.
But his heart is with activism.