First-aid responders volunteer at George Floyd protests, ready with antacids and water bottles

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Hassan Galedary (middle) stands with Feed the Streets LA volunteers at a George Floyd protest in Hollywood. Photo by Caleigh Wells

During the recent protests in LA, a couple of people have been scattered on the sides of the crowd, wearing red duct tape crosses on their shirts.

They’re first-aid responders. They don’t have medical training. They’re  volunteers, ready with water bottles and basic medical equipment, just in case.

“We’ve got milk, magnesia, blood stoppers, sterile cleaning stuff. We’re also doing damage assessment to see what gets destroyed so we can send cleanup crews in the morning,” says Hassan Galedary, who started a group called Feed the Streets LA in 2015. 

The group’s original mission was to bring food and water to people living on the streets, but COVID-19 slowed down that operation. So after Galedary saw the first protests turn violent, he wanted a neutral platform for people like him who wanted to support the movement without picking a side.

“People are scared but they don’t want to make a sign, they don’t want to put their fist up … but they still want to help,” he says.

Now dozens of group members stand quietly amid chanting masses, offering water and first-aid to protesters or police who need it. They also look for damage and looting, so they know where to clean up the next day.

 
“We haven’t had to treat anyone yet, but there are no EMTs out here,” Galedary says. “We just want to be ready and prepared for anything to happen.”

Before he got Feed the Streets LA involved, he was helping by himself. When he saw looters hit stores in the Fairfax district, he borrowed his roommate’s broom and dustpan to clean up those spots the next morning.

The protests evolved beyond the Fairfax district, and Galedary made sure to be there too. 

Galedary says that while he supports the movement, he’s not anti-cop. “This is a peaceful, chill platform for members of the community to contribute to the movement without being on one side or the other. Like for me, I need this. Otherwise, I could be the bad guy. But I don’t want to be the bad guy.”

He explains what being the bad guy means: “My first reaction was, ‘We’re rising up against the police.’ So my first thought is acts of aggression. I want to act aggressively against law enforcement. Not over any kind of cause, I’m just, I have the Joker in me. And that’s my natural reaction.”

Galedary says he developed those instincts as a kid. He was born and raised in West LA. He watched the Rodney King protests when he was 5. He says he spent his teenage years on probation and getting into trouble.

Now he’s 34, and he proudly calls himself seven years sober.

 “I had to change everything I learned from the age of like 12 … I had to get sober and change my lifestyle choices. … My lifestyle choices are much more gnarlier than any drugs or alcohol, like how I live and how I choose to operate and make money and just be in the streets,” he says.

Galedary says after he cleaned up his lifestyle seven years ago, he had a lot of energy and nowhere to focus it. For now, it’s channeled into his makeshift medical bag, into the bottles of water he carries into the crowd, and into the duct taped cross he wears on his chest.