Dynamics around healthcare on the Zad
Shared experience and common desire brought into existence several dynamics around healthcare based in the Zad of Notre-Dame-des-Landes. Here we present four of them : the organisation of street medics, the medic team of the zad, the herbalism project and the group who organises street medic trainings.
These dynamics share several common bases. There is a desire to reappropriate knowledge around healthcare, because we find it important to decentralize knowledge related to our bodies, but also as a response to the difficulties in relationship to classical institutions of healthcare : the ambulances blocked by law enforcement, the routine collaboration of hospitals with police, and the disdain and non-respect of consent lived by some. There is the desire to learn and share knowledge about more holistic ways of healing and which is not dependent on the pharmaceutical industry. There is the desire to reinforce social movements by propagating knowledge about emergency care and to form new groups.
These projects are independent but they are all entangled with elements of herbalism introduced into our street medic practices, trainings which bring new participants into the medic teams, and our experiences on the ground which nourish the content of the trainings.
The street medics
As soon as we show disagreement in concrete ways, or we block the smooth unfolding of increasing profit, repression quickly follows. Whether for the duration of a demonstration or because we live together on an outlawed zone , or when we are labeled « undesirable » or « protestors », the State wounds and kills at the hands of law enforcement.
Consious of these risks, in many countries revolutionary groups and activist movements have developed their own medical support networks for demonstrations or direct actions. This dynamic is different than humanitarian practices like the Red Cross, because we don’t pretend to be neutral. We take a clear political stance and an active role in the conflict, and in the support that we bring to our comrades in struggle.
In a demonstration, street medic teams try to be present on the scene as early as possible to be able to provide emergency care to people who ask for it , and to evaluate the needs of the situation before an ambulance arrives, which is sometimes blocked or diverted by the police. There is also an assessment of the legal risks in the case of recourse to official emergency care : for example, identity controls and arrests inside the hospitals to take in people without papers, people with outstanding warrants, or just because the simple fact of being wounded makes someone a suspect.
Law enforcement regularly update their equipment dedicated to repression with new chemical, electrical and physical weapons. As street medics, we try to respond by spreading techniques of defense developed on the ground and shared across the world for preventing, protecting, and healing.
For us, medical knowledge is accompanied by a political reflection in how we put it into practice, to avoid reproducing as much as possible relationships of domination, administration, and dispossession that the medical institution exerts. Our desire as street medics is to put the first priority on the consent of injured people and to give them the information to make clear and informed choices for themselves.
The street medic team of the Zad
On the zad there is a medic team which represents an autonomous medical presence during demonstrations and actions, including during past and possible future evictions, but also being present on the ground for medical emergencies when they happen. The medic team brings together people who are interested in that role, with or without official training (there are very few people with professional backgrounds). We organize together to get the knowledge and the material necessary to be able to be autonomous in actions or demonstrations.
Daily healthcare plays an important part in our work. There is a house with a living collective where many medics live, and people can pass through with their injuries or health problems for material, care, advice, and contacts. We evaluate the person and depending on their desires and the capacity of the individual who is treating them (knowledge in first aid, conventional medicine, or herbalism), either we treat them or we direct them to further care. For this we have contacts with medical professionals we trust (nurses, doctors, osteopaths, homeopaths…) who are in exchange and relationship with us.
There is also a medic trailer, to make sure that we are not the only way tfor people to have access to medical materials. It is left open, and stocked with first aid materials to use there, and material and information for harm reduction linked to drug use and sexual practices.
We also are part of a network of healthcare workers involved in the struggle against the airport. During the evictions of autumn 2012, a number of healthcare professionals came to support the medics on the ground. Over the years, we have worked together to prepare logistical and communications strategies, and to have the materials necessary in the case of eviction attempts or other police intervention. We also have regular discussions, and regular reciprocal trainings.
The herbalism projects
For the past six years, a dynamic around medicinal plants has been developing and made concrete by the creation of a medicinal garden, a dispensary, the creation of an autonomous phytotherapy school, the organisation of plant walks, and of trainings on the uses of plants and how to prepare them. There is a clinic project in the early stages, with regular individual consultations for chronic conditions, and drop in clinic days for more acute illness.
As many other projects which co-inhabit this zone, care by plants is rooted for us in a logic of long term struggle and autonomy, in conflict with the State and capitalist logics. As we try different ways to live, to resolve conflicts without legal intervention, to organize with many people with a diversity of positions and practices in the same territory, we take the liberty to be autonomous in care. We don’t want the world of the pharmaceutical industry, and of the disempowerment of bodies by a vertical and imposed system. We want to play an active rôle in the expansion of a method of accessible, understandable, and participative care which opens up new paths towards more knowledge of our bodies and the plants that surround us.
With a local support group we have built a cabin which serves as a lab for making and storing medicine, a place for distribution, for care, and passing on knowledge. From this place we offer different forms of consultations- individual, but also other times where we see people in a more collabotative exchange, to be able to share skills and learn together with the person seeking care, while having access to the dispensary so that we move together beyond a theoretical level.
Street medic trainings
The training group was created after realizing that the militant french networks were relatively poorly organized in terms of street medics, in comparison with other European countries or in North America. The street medic trainings are intended as a tool for improving our capacity to self-defence by contributing to the existence and multiplication of street medic teams in france and neighboring countries.
The trainings are done for specific geographic areas, to encourage the creation of local groups who can continue to practice and organize together.
The group was formed around self-training in relationship to first aid ; it consists of mainly non healthcare professionals involved in social struggles, with diverse levels of skill and experience.
The complete nine day trainings focus mainly on the most likely injuries in the case of demonstations or riots, the possible complications or aggravations of illness in these moments (stress, fatigue, cold, etc.) as well as psychoemotional injury. We have added a part about the weapons used by law enforcement and about advice for medics in action situations (organization, prevention…), as well as moments dedicated to harm reduction in sexual practices and in drug use. The content is based on classical western emergency care, with (for now) a partial integration of techniques of herbalism.