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Volunteer street medic team, co-founded by Texas FF, assists injured protesters

Street Medics Austin has aided several people injured by police projectiles and coordinates to help ambulances access patients


Protesters demonstrated at Austin police headquarters Sunday night. A volunteer first aid team called Street Medics Austin treated hundreds for heat exhaustion, police projectile injuries and the effects of pepper spray over the weekend.

Photo/Lola Gomez, Austin American-Statesman

By Laura French

AUSTIN, Texas — A Texas firefighter has helped form a volunteer team of street medics providing first aid to those injured during protests.

Austin Firefighter Toby Heidel told Texas Monthly that he and a group of friends, who have previously provided first aid and safety services at regional Burning Man events, formed Street Medics Austin with the objective of helping those that on-duty first responders may not be immediately able to reach, and take some of the burden off of the city’s emergency services.

“If you work in emergency services you always expect anything,” Heidel told Texas Monthly. “Our agenda is helping people, that’s why we’re here.”

Members of the team wear bright red crosses on their clothing and assist anyone in need of help; throughout the weekend, the team aided hundreds suffering from heat exhaustion and the effects of pepper spray, as well as those struck with police projectiles, such as rubber bullets and bean bags. According to KXAN, the team includes about 20 firefighters, nurses and paramedics.

One member of the team, Maredith Drake, who says she is also a volunteer firefighter, told KXAN she was trying to assist a young man who was bleeding and unconscious after being struck in the back of the head with a bean bag when she was also struck in the hand.

Austin Police Chief Brian Manley confirmed the 20-year-old man is in critical condition after being struck by a bean bag that was fired in response to someone throwing a water bottle and backpack at police, but inadvertently hit the man, who was standing nearby, according to KXAN.

Drake also told Texas Monthly a pregnant woman was struck in her belly and back with rubber bullets. Manley said the department is investigating the incident, KXAN reported.

Another member of Stree Medics Austin, Brenton Donnell, told Spectrum News that the team coordinated with the Austin Police Department EMS commander to determine how to best transport injured patients. Donnell said that ambulances have difficulty reaching the injured because they require a police escort, which raises tension among the crowds.

“Both he and I felt that it was unsafe to bring an ambulance over here, because an ambulance requires police support, and that police support is triggering protesters,” Donnell told Spectrum News. “So he was more than happy to work with us about putting EMS over there. And as we have to call ambulances, we are able to move patients over to that direction.”