The official line is that you're only at risk of police attack if you break the law at a demo, but we all know that's horsefeathers. Tear gas, pepper spray, rubber bullets and Tasers can hit you whether you're a target or not, so it's wise as the G8 looms to think about health and safety in placardland.Knowing exactly why you're there is critical to maintaining morale when all hell is breaking loose, as is remaining grounded and in control of your fate. This all takes training. Plan your exit strategies (with gas, you want to escape backwards and upwind, not sideways). And always stay with your affinity group. (You have one, don't you?)
Dressing for success means rain gear, since waterproof stuff keeps tear gas out. Around your neck wear goggles and a bandana soaked in vinegar or lemon juice. Cover eyes and mouth when necessary. Tear gas can cause long-term damage; it's also associated with disruption of hormone balance. Don't wear a gas mask -- it's provocative -- but if it makes you feel better, carry one in your knapsack (after making sure there's no asbestos in the filter).
Leave your makeup, contact lenses and vegetable- or mineral-oil-based creams at home. Anything oily traps chemicals, as do detergents. Before the demo, wash with castille soap and launder your clothes several times in detergent-free soap. Post-exposure, get out of your clothes and decontaminate with a cold shower. Get yourself educated in how to deal with arrest; flailing-armed panic can lead to charges of assault on a police officer. And bring along homeopathic arnica and colubrina. They're fast-acting and will kick-start healing until you get first aid.what the experts say"For bruises, concussions or fractures, take arnica, 200C potency, two, three or four times that day -- every 10 minutes if the trauma is severe. For tear gas and pepper spray, take colubrina in 30C potency every 10 minutes until symptoms subside, but not for more than an hour. For a Taser gun hit, take 30C of phosphorus every 10 minutes for an hour or two."
FERNANDO ANIA, homeopath
"Go to where the demo is going to be, create a magic circle and imagine guardians, gods, goddesses and whatever other divine help you need. When you raise energy in that space later, there's a container and the power will rise very quickly. If you're in the presence of someone who's volatile, match his or her breath and relax, match their stance and relax. It also works with police. A very soft song may help, too."
ROSE MAY DANCE, witch
"Long-term toxicity of tear gas affects the liver. Take antioxidants beforehand: beta carotene, selenium, zinc, vitamins C and E, glutathione. (After exposure) use antioxidants, turmeric and milk thistle. Eat broccoli, cauliflower and kale, use more citrus fruits if you're not allergic, and eat garlic and onions -- they contain sulphur, which will deactivate some chemicals and heavy metals."
ZOLTAN RONA, MD, MSc
"Decide beforehand what you hope to accomplish and what you're willing to get involved with. Not to panic is something we've learned through trial and error. Always stick with your buddies. If you have asthma or bronchial difficulties, don't go."
GENEVA GUERIN, Radical Cheerleader
"The medics, who spend the whole time at demos in the thick of things, are the least injured. We protect ourselves through our tactics and what we wear. Get trained in strategic thinking. Bring tons of water."
SCOTT WEINSTEIN, RN, demo medic