>Saturday, July 29, 2000
>A medic for the movement
>By Stacey Burling
>The aging revolutionary took his place in the circle of hard
>plastic chairs, a slightly rumpled man who pulls what's left
>of his hair into a ponytail and wears a Che Guevara T-shirt
>that proclaims, in Spanish: "Life is a struggle and we will
>"My name is Doc Rosen," he told the young people around him.
>"I've been involved in doing movement medical work for the
>last 35 years."
>Rosen had flown in from Denver to teach 12 would-be medics
>how to care for their fellow protesters if things went bad
>during demonstrations at the Republican National Convention.
>His topics during this four-hour class in a dimly lit room of
>a rambling West Philadelphia house were tear gas and pepper
>His class was a diverse group: a man in a Mumia shirt, a
>"health consumer and Jesus lover" in a simple flowered dress,
>a medical student, a homeless young man who travels around
>the country "chasing the revolution," a middle-aged guy who
>learned about chemical weapons in the military and wouldn't
>stand out in a crowd of off-duty cops, a 25-year-old woman who
>wore a plastic alligator snout in her hair and wants to bring
>creativity to the revolution.
>Rosen started by giving an order: "With as much drama as you
>can stir up in your souls, say the words, 'Oh, my God.' "
>Puzzled but game, the members of the class did as told, emitting
>loud, horrified cries.
>"Good," Rosen said. "That's the last time you get to say that.
>You don't get to say it on the street."
>Doc - his real name is Ron - Rosen is not a doctor in the M.D.
>sense. He is a doctor of Oriental medicine and an acupuncturist
>who has run a small group called the Colorado Street Medics for
>15 years and has been ministering to fellow demonstrators since
>the 1965 Alabama civil-rights march from Selma to Montgomery. He
>travels from demonstration to demonstration, training medics.
>"He's famous," said Amanda Macomber, who is helping to organize
>medical care for protesters and heard about Rosen from veterans
>of demonstrations in Washington, D.C., and Seattle. He volunteered
>to come to Philadelphia, where Macomber hopes that he and other
>instructors can train 50 medics.
>Rosen's class this night proved to be as much about a life of
>protest as it was about the medical benefits of vinegar, swim
>goggles and milk.
>In between tips on how to flush tear gas or pepper spray from
>the eyes, Rosen told war stories - make that antiwar stories -
>about his life in many of the movements that have shaped American
>politics over the last 40 years.
>He told of diving into a ditch as bullets whizzed by during the
>American Indian Movement's standoff at Wounded Knee, S.D. He
>watched in Miami during the 1972 Republican convention as a guy
>who had been dumb enough to wear shorts and sandals to a
>demonstration and unlucky enough to have a bursting tear-gas
>canister land between his legs was hosed off - without his
>Rosen's gas mask - one of more than 20 he has lost over the
>years - was confiscated in Seattle. He met a man during this
>spring's D.C. demonstrations who remembered him from the 1968
>Democratic convention in Chicago and said: "Two of your medics
>saved my life."
>His commitment to social causes started when he was young.
>Rosen, who calls himself an anarcho-socialist, is a "red-diaper
>baby," raised by socialist, union-organizing parents. Many of
>his relatives were Holocaust survivors with concentration-camp
>"I know very well what happens when a good person does nothing,"
>While many of his generation are buying luxury SUVs and furnishing
>their mansions, Rosen, at 52, is still driving ancient vehicles
>and flopping on floors in strange cities to fight for a less
>corporate, more environmentally friendly world. He spends part of
>each year training health workers in Guatemala.
>His work is far from done.
>"I'm not simply involved because of one issue," he said. "I see
>that there's an entire change in the system that's necessary."
>The key to relieving the pain of tear gas and pepper spray, Rosen
>told his class, is water. Ideally, it would be gallons, but they
>couldn't carry that much. So he taught them how to do quick eye
>flushes with squirt bottles, using his 16-year-old son, Ari, along
>for his first "real action," to demonstrate. The members of the
>class practiced on each other until their T-shirts were streaked
>with dark, wet splotches.
>Then Rosen taught them how to remove police chemicals from the
>skin, reciting like a mantra "mineral oil followed immediately
>by alcohol." It is not a job for the dainty, he said. It requires
>speed and force. Otherwise, it makes things worse.
>Rosen showed them small plastic bottles: gray for mineral oil,
>red for alcohol.
>"Before anybody says it," he announced, "I bought these at Kmart
>and Target, two giant corporations, and I don't really care. I
>don't know of any mom-and-pop stores that sell plastic bottles."
>Again, the class would practice.
>"Guess what," Rosen said. "In a minute, you're going to have to
>smear this [mineral oil] on each other."
>"Without candles?" a woman asked coquettishly.
>Rosen laughed loudly.
>"That is the best line I've ever heard," he said.
>They practiced smearing and removing, which, like eye-flushing, is
>a lot harder than it sounds.
>For people who have gotten heavy doses of pepper spray, Rosen said,
>the medics have recently discovered that milk works best. That's
>whole, not skim, and, yes, Rosen knows that this could present a
>philosophical problem for vegans, who eschew all animal products.
>"I don't know where I would have gone with this back when I was a
>vegan," he said.
>Next, he showed the class what he wears to a demonstration. There's
>the vest, its many pockets stuffed absurdly full with mineral oil
>and alcohol, gauze, a rain poncho, latex gloves, six pairs of
>goggles, flashlights and binoculars, a whistle, six bandannas
>presoaked in vinegar (for filtering tear gas) and packed in
>resealable plastic bags, a waterproof notebook, an astronaut's pen
>(it writes in any position), and snacks.
>Rosen, who says he has spent up to $200,000 of his own money over
>the years on medic supplies, carries a two-liter bottle of water
>attached to a hose on his back. There's a bag for his gas mask, an
>M17-A1 he is very proud of. And another pack with more first-aid
>The 20-year-old revolution-chaser was impressed.
>"You've got to respect the experiences that people have been
>through," said the young man, who would not give his name.
>"He's been through more protests than I have.
>"It's important to me to fight for the things I believe in. I hope
>I'm still doing it at his age."
>Class was almost over. Rosen ended it as he said he always does.
>"My parents were movement activists," he said. "That's how they met
>each other. They're both gone now."
>By Jewish tradition, continuing to do, in their name, things they
>would have done adds to their merit, he said.
>"So," he added, "I do all these workshops in my parents' name."
>He paused to wipe his eyes. Then Rosen, who says he is inspired by
>the young people he sees at demonstrations nowadays, thanked his
>"I am very honored to work with you and teach you," he said.
>The circle applauded.
>Stacey Burling's e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org
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