Today, antifascist protesters converged upon Spring Street in Melbourne near the Parliament of Victoria. They went there to counter racist rallies being held by Reclaim Australia and the fascist United Patriots Front.

As usual Victoria Police was also in attendance, and in the days leading to the protest it had promised a large presence and random weapons checks in response to rumours of fascists bringing weapons and intending violence.

Victoria Police’s goal for the day was to facilitate Reclaim Australia and the United Patriots Front holding their rallies out the front of Parliament House. In order to achieve this mounted officers and members of the Public Order Response Team (PORT) complemented uniformed officers on the streets, and OC (Pepper) spray was deployed against counter-protesters.

Amongst those affected by the OC Spray was a casualty who began to experience respiratory distress, a not uncommon side-effect of OC spray and other such “less-than-lethal” chemical weapons. In the course of attending to this casualty and decontaminating others who had been affected, members of the Melbourne Street Medic Collective (including one pregnant woman) were attacked by police with OC Spray and kettled in a small space at the top of Little Bourke Street.

Footage of the incident will be reviewed as it becomes available but at this point there seem to be only two explanations for the deployment of chemical weapons against the Street Medics: some witness reports have indicated that Victoria Police officers were spraying the crowd indiscriminately and did not check who they were attacking until after the fact. Others have said that police ignored the shouts of the crowd advising them that someone was receiving medical attention and with the decision to spray all medics this action should be seen as a deliberate attack upon medical personnel and their treatment space.

As one of our medics has since remarked:

Possibly more than 100 people needed to be treated today as police indiscriminately fired pepper spray into the crowd, including onto an injured man who was struggling to breathe, was losing consciousness, and was awaiting an ambulance. They also sprayed the medics treating him. Someone had a seizure, two were taken to hospital and a few were sent home (by us as medics) due to the after-effects of the pepper spray (namely hypothermia-like symptoms of shaking and an inability to normalise body temperature). It was absolute fucking carnage and it was completely unnecessary and provocative. The racists didn’t cop any of the pepper spray at all as far as I know, and they got a three-line police escort away from the area.”

Victoria Police should rightfully be condemned for the deployment of chemical weapons, the targeting of medical personnel, casualties and medical treatment spaces with such weapons and, most of all, doing this in order to facilitate a public rally of racists and overt fascists and neo-nazis. Any assessment of the actions of antifascist protesters will conclude that they were inherently defensive: against threats of violence and the use of weapons by fascists and nazis as part of the United Patriots Front, and against the violence of racism and systematic oppression on the parts of Reclaim Australia, the United Patriots Front and Victoria Police.

The officers in command of PORT and of the event should immediately be suspended from their duties and investigations launched into how and why chemical weapons came to be used, and used against medics, injured persons and in treatment spaces. These investigations should be conducted with the possibility of demotion, termination from employment and/or laying of criminal charges (such as for assault) as outcomes.

Melbourne Street Medic Collective encourages all witnesses and concerned persons to lodge complaints with Victoria Police’s Conduct Unit and the Police Minister.

Police Conduct Unit
GPO Box 913
Melbourne VIC 3001

Telephone:1300 363 101
Email: “

Role Occupant The Hon Wade Noonan MP
Phone 03 8684 0900
Email Address
Portfolio Minister for Corrections
Minister for Police

Legal Aid Victoria has additional information on lodging complaints with police well worth a read.

It’s late in the afternoon after a full day of actions in a week long campaign. People are starting to feel weary and sluggish under the baking hot sun and the exhaustion of thinking is only made worse by the sniping and grizzling everyone seems to be using against each other. The day’s almost at an end and all you want to do is sit down in the shade, take off your shoes and drink some water. Everyone else in the affinity group seems keen to get out of there as soon as possible and go to the pub, but you also want to raise with the group a concern about the action and you’re not sure that people want to listen.


It’s 1 o’clock in the morning at an overnight encampment, cool air feeling like it’s freezing your damp clothing. The night has been fairly uneventful, save for a small but loud argument a few hours ago, and your body is nagging you to sleep. The next buddy team is due to come on shift and mind the first aid tent until the morning soon and you’re waiting for them to arrive.


Today you have been taking part in a solidarity vigil against the forced deportation of a refugee from a detention centre. The vigil has progressed very smoothly, with no incidents and a good atmosphere amongst those who have attended. Yet, in listening to the speeches you couldn’t help but feel upset and a little disturbed by what you heard and it has started to make you feel quite stressed and anxious. On the outside, you seem okay – you don’t want to feel like you’re letting other people down. After all, you’ve been at these sorts of actions many times before without a problem, why start to worry now?


Each of the situations described above are not unusual situations to find yourself in when participating in protests. Long days and nights with little rest and even less sleep can grind even the most hardy down, while personal and political concerns can suddenly flare and become vitriolic. In order to deal with these issues and, if possible, prevent them from getting out of control we encourage affinity groups and even individuals to debrief after actions.

Debriefing is a process by which people come together after an incident or event to discuss what has happened and to come to a common understanding of what has just occurred. It is a useful opportunity to check in with other people and make others aware of how you are feeling, and to flag concerns or issues that arose during the incident; perhaps its primary use is being the first step in recognising and acting against Critical Incident Stress if there has been a traumatic incident. Through debriefing, questions such as “Did I/we do the right thing?”, “Is it okay to feel like this?”, “Should I/we have done more?” can be directly addressed and resolved, rather than leaving them to fester in the back of our minds.

It is important to keep in mind that trauma is subjective: different people may be affected by one situation in radically different ways depending on earlier traumas, coping techniques and a whole range of other factors. Hence the third example, above: in this case it is not seeing an act of violence, suffering or seeing a physical injury that has caused the trauma. Instead, repeated exposure to stories of severe suffering has taken its toll and the person in the example is experiencing emotional distress. You may also note that the example does not specify that the person is acting as a Street Medic: this process obviously has its benefits for medics (as the nature of our work at protests places us at a higher risk of encountering traumatic situations), but it is something that all protesters and affinity groups should consider and embrace. Trauma is by no means monopolised by Street Medics.

So, the advantages of debriefing amongst affinity groups are two-fold: to maintain and strengthen the affinity of the group, and to look out for the mental welfare of affinity group members.

How to debrief

Melbourne Street Medic Collective’s practice when it comes to debriefing is to debrief after every action, with an open invitation for non-medics to also attend. Sometimes this means debriefs are very short and quickly over and done with. Other times it has proved the opportunity for concerns to be aired, openly and without prejudice, and either quickly resolved or deferred upon agreement to a more convenient and appropriate time and setting.

We have also found it most effective to conduct debriefings as soon after the event/incident as possible and will generally move to a quiet area to debrief once the action has begun to wind up, so long as there are no immediate concerns/incidents to be dealt with.

Once assembled, someone volunteers to facilitate/chair the debrief and we conduct a check-in: taking it in turns to greet the group, describe how we’re feeling (“I’m all good”, “I feel like shit”, “I’m okay but I was pretty stressed for a while when the cops were getting aggro”, etc.) and briefly – i.e., one or two sentences – describe how we feel the action went.

For Street Medic collectives it is often useful to follow check-ins with any report-backs about incidents during the action (mostly because these may have been referenced during the check-in). Otherwise, a call is made for anyone to raise any concerns or points of praise for the action. This can be conducted in a similar manner to the check-in, with input from each person in the group, or input can be received through a general call-out to the group.

If a point is raised, it is important to remember that this process is intended to be constructive and that we need to be respectful of one another, even if the issue is of a personal nature.

Concerns should be raised without attacking a person, and responses called for after the first person has been given time to raise and explain their concern. Responses should be directed at the issue, not the person, and the discussion managed in such a way as to prevent digression or rambling. Here, active listening and non-violent communication skills are invaluable.

If needed, a two-minute time limit on speaking can be used and a speaker’s list employed to ensure the conversation is open to all and not dominated by a few key voices. Here, the role of the facilitator is key and to that end we have included some information about facilitation skills below.

Discussion should be directed towards finding a resolution but, if this is not possible (after all, Rome wasn’t built in a day) within the current debriefing space, the group should aim towards setting another date and time in the near-future to further discuss and hopefully resolve the issue. If for some reason this cannot be arranged, emphasis should be put on trying to organise this as soon as possible in the following days.

To recap:

1. After the action, find a quiet place away from the action.
2. Nominate a facilitator.
3. Conduct check-ins (How are you feeling/How do you think the action went?).
4. Make any report-backs.
5. Ask group members if they have any issues they want to raise or any general comments on the action.
6. If needed, agree on a date and time to follow up from the debrief.

In the lead up to the State Election, the Napthine government has pledged some $21 million to teach Year 9 students first aid.

On paper this is impressive: students will be taught “to administer first aid to victims of heart attacks, strokes, burns and other medical emergencies” and Dr Napthine has suggested it will bolster students employability as employers will give preference to new workers with first aid qualifications. Yet the good Doctor’s enthusiasm belies a simple fact: without a properly equipped, staffed and paid ambulance service the efforts of the best first aiders will be thwarted. Without properly funded, equipped and staffed public hospitals our ability to provide full care to casualties is also compromised.

First aiders have a vital role to play in the workplace and the community, providing initial care for the ill or injured until medical help arrives. In the US, several states have now made it a mandatory requirement for high school students to become CPR-certified in order to obtain their high school certificates; various jurisdictions in the EU also require drivers to have basic first aid skills. As the EU Red Cross says, first aid is an act of humanity and so should be encouraged where possible.

However, it is impossible to ignore the emphasis placed upon waiting for ambulance support in the Emergency First Aid and Provide First Aid courses. When teaching first aid we emphasise the necessity of following the Chain of Survival, which urges prompt access to ambulance and advanced life support services (such as those provided by MICA Paramedics). We also make the point that while one can elect to leave out rescue breaths when performing CPR this brings with it a severe risk of brain damage in the casualty, especially in Melbourne where less than three-quarters of top priority calls are able to be met by ambulance crews within 15 minutes. Ambulance Victoria’s refusal to release detailed insights into ambulance response times on the grounds that it would “excite public controversy” is a clear indication that response times are falling behind.

This policy, if enacted, would be of benefit to Victoria and its people – of this there is no doubt. However considering the track-record of the Baillieu and Napthine governments, which have spent much of their time trying to beat back the rights, benefits and conditions of public sector nurses and paramedics, this policy must be seen for what it truly is: a distraction from the ongoing crisis in the public healthcare sector. If this is an achievable policy there should be no reason for the ALP, Greens and whomever else wishes to contest the election to make similar pledges as well. But we must not sell out our health and wellbeing for a gimmicky election promise.


Other articles of relevance:

Vanstone’s Sham Solution: “Let the sick die!”

Mandatory Training and Marginalisation


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If you’re helping others, wear gloves – the chemicals will quickly contaminate other people and materials!


  1. Remove contaminated clothing and wipe off any remaining chemicals with gauze/rags.

  2. Spray vegetable or mineral oil on any skin exposed to the gas (NOT THE FACE) and wipe off with new gauze/rags.

  3. Wipe skin down again with new gauze/rags and rubbing (isopropyl) alcohol.


  • Shower with cold water and scrub your skin with soap. Hot water opens pores, which may let chemicals penetrate more deeply.

  • Don’t take a bath – you don’t want to soak in the chemicals!

  • Position yourself so that contaminated water from your hair does not run all over your skin – especially your face!

For your clothes:

  • Place contaminated clothes in a sealed plastic bag until you can wash them or dispose of them.

  • Clothes contaminated with tear gas can be hung out in the wind. It may take several days before the smell is gone.

  • Wash clothes with a strong detergent-based soap (this is not a time for eco-friendly, detergent-free products).

  • Coats, furniture, rugs and other items can be exposed to air or steam cleaned; some recommend adding 5-10% baking soda to the steam water.

The effects of tear gas and pepper spray are usually temporary.

Seek medical attention if you experience any of the following:

  • Severe or ongoing breathing problems

  • Ongoing eye irritation

  • Skin rash

  • Symptoms that persist, worsen, or reappear.

Many people feel fatigued or ill after chemical exposure. This is a good time to take extra good care of yourself. Drink a lot of water, eat nutritious food, and get enough sleep. Many different herbs can help detoxify the body-ask an herbalist for recommendations.

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The issue of whether long time care and life support for terminal patients is tantamount to torture or not is a delicate, complicated and as yet unresolved question in medicine.

Yet one cannot feel that former Senator Amanda Vanstone’s (Immigration Minister during the Howard years) suggestion that elderly and/or terminal patients seek advanced medical directives to cease treatment because of the savings that could be made and reinvested into the health sector are misguided and a tricksy form of support for Abbott’s health cuts.

In her column, she poses the question: “irrespective of your age, what [do] you think is reasonable to expect as free medication that would keep you going in a reasonable condition if you had a terminal diagnosis?” Her point is that people who want free access to hundreds of thousands of dollars of medical care a year should just “face the inevitable”, do us all a favour and die. As her article ostensibly focuses on the elderly and cites financial figures that would make most people wince: especially those whose only exposure to the cost of healthcare is rising private health insurance premiums and memes about ridiculously overpriced American medical care.

What Vanstone has failed to mention is that there are many Australians who suffer long-term, debilitating, life-threatening and/or terminal illnesses who are not elderly and that while the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme and private health insurance (for those who have good coverage) can go a long way the cost of healthcare in Australian can be crippling in itself. The issue of how much funding a person should receive for medical care should not centre around whether it is a fruitful investment. Governments have a responsibility to ensure that every person, regardless of age, illness, sexuality or race should have adequate and appropriate access to medical care.

This is a sly development in the continuing efforts to dismantle public and affordable healthcare in Australia and to destroy the living conditions that have been fought for over the last 150 years. Shortly before Vanstone urged the elderly and infirm to hurry up and die (quoting one “senior medical professional” who argues that all Australians over the age of 73 should have an Advanced Medical Directive or else lose access to Medicare entirely), an Abbott government Minister excused the raising of the pension age to 70 by saying that workers are now living too long and that having a retirement age that permits workers to actually retire (as opposed to dying at work or having to retire due to disability or impairment) is contrary to the intent of the original pension scheme. Together, Vanstone and the other MP want to create a situation where workers will have to work until well into old age and then be forced to sign a death warrant to retain access to public healthcare. This is if they can even afford access to public healthcare, with moves to introduce co-payments for GP visits and even emergency care to curb a non-existent but apparently potent moral threat from healthcare abusers.

Medical care for terminal and long-term illness sufferers can be debilitating, disturbing and at times even torturous. The medical community needs to find a more compassionate and caring solution to this problem and accept that euthanasia or the withholding of care from those patients for whom it will cause extra suffering should be considered. But this problem is not a window of opportunity for capitalists who wish to strip public healthcare to the bone and ultimately leave the wider community more exposed to illness and suffering. To them, the suffering of the ill is an inconvenience and an expensive one at that. We should look for a more holistic and caring solution that preserves the right for all people to receive medical care regardless of age, illness, sexuality or race.

Amanda Vanstone’s column was originally published by Fairfax and can be read here.



Over the last few years a number of American state legislatures have acted to require high school students to undertake cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) training in order to graduate. Currently, Vermont, Virginia, Iowa, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Georgia and Alabama require students to obtain CPR certification and, come September when the new school year starts, they will be joined by Washington, Minnesota, North Carolina, Arkansas and Texas. With the American Heart Foundation reporting nearly 360,000 Out-of-Hospital Cardiac Arrests in 2013 (down from nearly 383,000 in 2012) there is a clear need to maximise the number of people who are able and willing to provide CPR assistance in an emergency.

In Germany and Switzerland it is necessary to obtain first aid certification when applying for a driver’s licence. In 2008, the EU Red Cross wrote to the European Commission [PDF] to recommend that first aid certification be made a mandatory requirement for all applicants for the European driver’s licence with re-certification to be undertaken every five years so that skills and knowledge could be kept current. In making this recommendation, the EU Red Cross produced strong arguments: they state that up to 85% of “preventable pre-hospital deaths” occur as a result of airway obstruction causing asphyxia before the arrival of emergency services and 57% of deaths occur within minutes of the initial crash. Clearly, having bystanders who are willing, able and equipped to provide assistance would lead to a reduction in deaths from road accidents. As they, somewhat bluntly, say:

Imagine a victim with severe bleeding following a road accident. If nobody applies pressure to the wound to stop the bleeding, even the most sophisticated or the quickest emergency service in the world will only arrive on the scene to certify death.

Mandatory training schemes are all well and good where adequate resources are available and flexibility and fairness can be assured. However, amongst marginalised communities these conditions are not guaranteed. In school districts where funding is tight, mandatory training may be a considerable burden even if additional funding is granted to cover the programme. It is often large, peak-body groups such as the American Heart Foundation or the Red Cross (or in Australia the Red Cross and St John) that are approved to provide training for education departments and while this does impart a certain guarantee of quality upon the programme the costs are often far and above what poor individuals and communities are able to afford. This becomes a problem when students miss organised training sessions due to work, family or health commitments/concerns or else are left behind because trainers are unable (or even unwilling) to cater to students with different literacy, language and physical requirements. The kid who misses a training session because they have to go to work or look after a family member may be in that situation because a parent or caregiver has been incapacitated by an injury or illness or else because the family income is very low: ironically and unfortunately, these are likely the kids who would benefit most from the training as they may be more likely to find themselves in a situation where CPR or first aid is needed.

If individuals or communities want to organise their own (unaccredited) training they face a major barrier in the prohibitive cost of training, equipment and supplies or else may have to choose to compromise on capacity and/or equipment to ensure at least something is available. Marginalisation, whether at the level of the individual or the community, is a vicious cycle. In the case of mandatory CPR training in high schools we should recognise that this is a sector already under attack, financially and culturally (such as through the undermining of scientific and rational education, censorship, entrenchment of privilege and campaigns to busty public sector unionisation) and that for marginalisation to be properly addressed there needs to be a profound and systemic overhaul of society, not just particular education departments and school districts.

In the meantime, there is a lot that can be done in the community to ensure that everyone has a good chance to receive, and provide, first aid and CPR. After all, as the EU Red Cross says, first aid is an act of humanity and a key responsibility of global citizenship so we should try to make sure access is universal. Street medics play an important role in this by “liberating” medical knowledge and skills and empowering the community to take its health into its own hands. Perhaps the most potent illustration of this was Occupy Sandy, an exercise in mutual aid put into effect by street medics in New York who provided medical and emotional support to survivors of Hurricane Sandy in 2012. This was a comprehensive, holistic and effective response to calamity and one episode amongst many of street medics providing care during crisis. Street medics across the world have also trained activists and marginalised communities in medical self-defence or provided clinical support where the state could not – or actively would not – provide help. It was actually with this in mind that street medicine came into creation: when the Medical Committee for Human Rights visited Tennessee in the early 1960s they witnessed first hand the effects of racist medical systems that deliberately excluded black patients. After seeing people die waiting for acute medical services because they had the wrong coloured skin, these medical professionals worked with black communities to create free clinics, health and education programs and brought wellness to people who the state refused to believe were human.

With regards to mandatory training schemes, street medics could help by helping to ensure that all communities have fair and reasonable access to CPR and first aid training, even if they are unable to accredit those people directly to the state’s requirements. They can also provide a context to ensure that CPR and first aid is relevant to these people and their situations so that there is an active engagement in ensuring communal well-being. Finally, by enacting a radical and holistic approach to healthcare, medics and the community will have a role to play in combating the wider iniquities and inequalities of capitalist society.





In Melbourne we are rarely blessed with terrifically hot weather but, on occasion, we find ourselves sweltering in the heat of a 40°C+ day. Such hot weather poses a risk to protesters due to the possibility of dehydration or heat stress, and this can be compounded by particular methods of protest. Activists engaged in lock-ons or pickets may be unwilling or unable to leave the site, meaning they may be exposed to direct sun and wind for long periods of time and have difficulties getting water, food or relieving themselves. In order to ensure that they can engage in effective political action as long as possible, activists must come prepared with the right supplies and attitude to last the day.

Essential supplies:

  • Bottle of water (600mL – 1L);
  • A small snack, such as a museli bar or packet of lollies;
  • A hat;
  • Sunscreen, SPF30 or above;
  • Light, loose-fitting clothing that covers as much skin as possible.

Essential attitudes:

  • Rest Well, Rest Often. Get as much rest as possible before and after actions. Recharging your batteries helps to prevent burn-out and will lessen stress during actions.
  • Know your limits. By the time you’re feeling nauseous from the heat or feeling the burn from sunburn you have pushed yourself too far. Talk with your fellow activists about what you feel comfortable doing, how you’re feeling and about rotating out to ensure that everyone can stay healthy and happy. You may notice that in hot weather, police commanders will rotate their officers out either in teams, couples or individually to allow them to drink water, have a snack and sit out of the sun for a while: this enables them to maintain their presence all day, and similar actions should be taken by protesters where possible.
  • Sunscreen or Fry, Water or Die. In Australia, the risk of sunburn is very high, even on cloudy days. On 35°C+ days, the likelihood of getting sunburned after an hour in the sun is almost guaranteed and burns will take several days to recover from, even with care. Dehydration, as well as making you feel irritable, nauseous and dry-lipped, can lead to cramps, fainting and further medical problems. The body needs to take in at least 30 – 60mL of water an hour to produce the necessary urine for basic kidney function and this should be kept in mind during prolonged actions.

Street medics will often bring supplies of water and sunscreen to actions, but this is intended as a measure of last resort or treatment. Carting bulk supplies of water to and around actions comes with a physical and financial cost that many of us are unable to bear for very long. If long term actions or actions during extreme heat are planned, we encourage activists to prepare themselves accordingly and perhaps come together to organise a separate water affinity group who can make it a priority to ensure that activists are adequately hydrated and sun-screened.

For more information, check out Pro-Tips 12 (Dehydration) and 20 (Keeping Cool in the Heat) and the Victorian Government’s Better Health resources on Heat Stress and Heat Illnesses.

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This morning a number of medics from Melbourne Street Medic Collective attended the East-West Tunnel community picket of Lend Lease in Docklands in order to support and assist picketers. Lend Lease is being targeted as one of the fore-runners in the bidding process to build the East-West tunnel link. We have supported this campaign as individuals and as a collective for some time and plan to continue this support into the future.

This morning’s action was notable for the level of brutality and violence employed by Victoria Police against picketers. At last week’s picket, organisers arranged to allow non-Lend Lease workers to enter the building after showing ID, and a similar proposal was raised today. However, Victoria Police – seemingly reeling from the positive media coverage generated by last week’s picket – refused to allow this, and instead chose to use workers (mostly from Fujitsu) as tools to create violence and negative press coverage.

Instead of allowing small groups of workers to enter the building calmly and safely, Victoria Police used several members of the Critical Incident Response Team (CIRT) to break through the community picket and violently thrust workers into the building, while causing distress and injury to those on the picket. Victoria Police did not merely play a passive response to non-Lend Lease employees’ desires to enter the building: on a number of occasions, Victoria Police officers were seen chasing after workers who had decided not to cross the picket line in order to convince them to change their mind and provide another opportunity to inflict violence upon the peaceful picketers.

As a result of Victoria Police’s actions we were required to provide care for a number of injuries. These included minor injuries (cuts and scratches) as well as more serious ones: one person reported an injured shoulder, another received treatment for a sprained ankle. Two people were offered treatment after having their legs trampled and pinned by police and another received treatment for a head injury.

As well as providing care for injuries we provided water and rescue remedy to keep picketers hydrated and in good spirits and we can happily report that the mood was definitely positive.

It cannot be said more clearly that our need to provide medical care stemmed directly from Victoria Police’s decision to employ violence as a tactic to break the community picket. As was acknowledged in the debriefing session after the picket this morning, the Napthine Government’s use of violence to oppose the tunnel picket campaign is proof of their lack of solid justification for the project. The cynical use of workers as collateral in the attempt to destroy the tunnel picket campaign can only be condemned and shows that Victoria Police and the Napthine Government will go to great lengths to ensure this project will continue: even placing the safety of Victorians in jeopardy.

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Panic Attack 01

It’s natural to experience anxiety in large protesting crowds or panic when confronted by heavy handed police tactics. If those feelings are accompanied with the following symptoms, a protester may be experiencing a panic attack:


Palpitations, pounding heart, or rapid heart rate;


Trembling and shaking;

Shortness of breath, sensations of choking or smothering;Panic Attack 02

Chest pain or discomfort;

Abdominal distress or nausea;

Dizziness, light-headedness, feeling faint or unsteady;

Feelings of unreality or being detached;

Fears of losing control or going crazy;

Fear of dying;

Numbness or tingling;

Chills or hot flushes.

If you suspect someone is having a Panic Attack:

  1. Introduce yourself.

  2. Ask the protester if they have ever had a panic attack before. If they reply “yes” and they believe they are having one now, ask them if they need help.

  3. Speak in a reassuring but firm manner. Don’t make assumptions and don’t belittle their experience.

  4. Acknowledge their terror but reassure them that panic attacks are not life threatening & the symptoms will pass.

  5. Ask directly what they need. Ask if they would like to remove themselves from the protest.

  6. After the panic attack has subsided ask if the person knows how to access health-care services for help.

Be aware: The symptoms of a panic sometimes resemble an asthma attack or even heart attack. If the person has not had a panic attack before – and doesn’t think they are having one now – call an ambulance.



According to F.S. Haddad, in the British Medical Journal article, “Complaints of pain after use of handcuffs should not be dismissed.” Numbness, tingling (“pins & needles”) and even severe pain can occur after short periods of hand-cuff restraint and could be due to nerve damage.

Pain and altered sensation when cuffed is generally due to superficial nerve damage that usually disappears upon release. If the nerve is bruised function should return in days, but if the nerve needs to regenerate then total healing could take two months.

Paresthesia, is a sensation of tingling, tickling, prickling, or burning of a person's skin.

Paresthesia, is a sensation of tingling, tickling, prickling, or burning of a person’s skin.

What you can do to protect yourself from nerve damage:

When handcuffs are applied to a struggling person, the cuffs can become too tight around the wrist. Police are instructed not to remove or adjust handcuffs until in a “safe and controlled environment” so they may chose not to respond to requests to “loosen cuffs”. However, you can ask to have the cuffs “double-locked” which prevents them from ratcheting tighter.

.Aftercare: Always see a medical practitioner if symptoms persist – especially if spinal injury may be involved (from a fall or police kneeling on your back) or if the handcuffing was particularly violent.


 Haddad, FS. “Complaints of Pain after Use of Handcuffs Should Not Be Dismissed.” British Medical Journal 318.7175 (1999)