Introduction & Overview
Atlanta Resistance Medics (ARM) is a street medic collective of activists, healthcare professionals, and herbalists based out of Atlanta, Georgia. First formed in 2011 as a result of the Occupy Movement, ARM has evolved from an affinity group to a consensus-based collective after a hiatus in 2017. Considering medical knowledge to be a form of self-defense, ARM seeks to promote health in the activist community by hosting training events and actively working on community health projects. Foremost, ARM provides medical support to protests, direct actions, and uprisings to ensure the safety of their fellow activists and community members. Following in the revolutionary footsteps of previous street medic organizations active during the civil rights movement, ARM has taken a strong stance against hierarchy, oppression, capitalism, and law enforcement (1).
History & Foundations
Street Medicine has a long and varied history. Originating during the 1960s Civil Rights movement, in which the Medical Committee for Civil Rights (MCCR) acted as an affinity group for major demonstrations such as the March on Washington, street medic groups have become an influential part of political movements all over the world. Over time, more street medic groups became involved in a broader range of events. Street medics played a key role in Black Panther community programs and were present during the American Indian Movements occupation of Wounded Knee during the 1970s. During this time, street medic organizations helped pioneer the field of public health through rat abatement programs and community drug prevention/treatment programs.
During the 1999 World Trade Organization protests, a new generation of street medics from around the country gathered to provide medical support to demonstrations in Seattle, Washington. Due to the growing national security apparatus, this new generation faced threats never seen before, such as improved tear gas, rubber bullets, flash-bang grenades, and tasers. After the anti-globalization movement subsided, street medics shifted their focus to providing support during natural disasters. In response to the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami, for instance, Native American street medics provided medical aid and mental health support to coastal villages in Thailand. In 2005, moreover, street medics established the first medical clinic in New Orleans to provide care to communities affected by Hurricane Katrina (2).
In 2011, protests erupted throughout the US and Europe in response to economic inequality and money’s influence on political decisions. Starting in New York’s financial district, encampments sprouted up throughout the country in support of the Occupy Movement. In Atlanta’s encampment, founding members of the ARM volunteered in a 24/7 medical tent and organized volunteers to provide medical aid at demonstrations. Following in the footsteps of past street medic groups, these volunteers created ARM in order to provide the politically-active Atlanta community with training events, medical support during demonstrations, and community health programs (3). After members of the affinity group moved out of state and became occupied with other projects, ARM went on a hiatus, returning in 2017 with renewed and defined core values they labeled their Points of Unity.
Objectives & Ideology
ARM claims their goal is to help facilitate the success of liberatory actions by providing care to those participating. As stated in ARM’s Points of Unity, ARM proclaims the failure of capitalism, the state, and their agent’s ability to provide decent and adequate healthcare to the people, simultaneously seeking to liberate healthcare from these institutions through community programs, free clinics, and training events. This is supported by ARM’s aforementioned commitment to resisting hierarchy and oppression of any form, whether it is within their own collective, between medics and those they help, or in the broader community (4).
Abilities & Approach
Despite ARM’s 2017 hiatus, their collective has only grown in popularity and reach. ARM offers regular training events such as a 20-hour street medic course, affinity group medical training, and healthcare provide bridge training. The collective also offers to travel throughout the southeast United States to help out-of-state groups conduct similar events. Since winter 2021, ARM has also begun hosting a monthly free clinic, (5) during which they provide the community with medical consultation, blood pressure tests, wound care, and mental health support. These clinics also provide the community with hygiene supplies such as tooth care products, vitamin supplements, herbal remedies, and over-the-counter medications (6). The funding for these free clinics comes from community donations and support from the Missouri-based non-profit NCS (Network for Strong Communities). In addition to these community and training programs, ARM provides medical support for activists during demonstrations (7). Besides affinity group medics, a majority of the time, ARM is the sole medical provider for these direct action events.
Alliances & Relations
ARM’s geographical proximity to the Defend the Atlanta Forest (DTF) social movement, as well as its similar goals of resisting what both parties perceive as oppressive agencies, has resulted in its recurring presence at DTF demonstrations by having medics embedded at the occupied site (8). One of these medics embedded at the site was Manuel Esteban Paez Terán, nicknamed Tortuguita, who was killed during a police raid on DTF encampments (9). In 2020, ARM also had a strong presence at BLM (Black Lives Matter) demonstrations in the Atlanta area. During the BLM movement, ARM not only acted as medical support for protests but also used their website to post safety information and resources for activists (10).
Works Cited (Chicago-style)
(1) - “The Atlanta Street Medics Collective.” Atlanta Resistance Medics. http://www.atlantaresistancemedics.org/.
(2) - “An Overview of Street Medic History.” Atlanta Resistance Medics. http://www.atlantaresistancemedics.org/street-medic-history/.
(3) - Atlanta Resistance Medics. https://atlantaresistancemedics.wordpress.com/.
(4) - “The Atlanta Street Medics Collective.” Atlanta Resistance Medics. http://www.atlantaresistancemedics.org/.
(6) - “Free Clinic.” Atlanta Resistance Medics. http://www.atlantaresistancemedics.org/free-clinic/.
(8) - Author, Anonymous. “Defend the Atlanta Forest (DTF).” The Modern Insurgent. The Modern Insurgent, March 11, 2023. https://www.moderninsurgent.org/post/defend-the-atlanta-forest-dtf.
“‘If You Build It, We Will Burn It," Defiant and Energized Defend the Forest Movement Retakes Ground.” Atlanta Community Press Collective, March 5, 2023. https://atlpresscollective.com/2023/03/05/if-you-build-it-we-will-burn-it-defiant-and-energized-defend-the-forest-movement-retakes-ground/.
(9) - (@Altresistancemedics Instagram Post. @Altresistancemedics. Instagram.com, January 20, 2023. https://www.instagram.com/p/CnpV2lfu_kx/?igshid=YmMyMTA2M2Y%3D.