Protesters marched into the University of Chicago’s new $700-million hospital unannounced on Sunday, shouting and holding handmade signs demanding an adult trauma care center for the city’s South Side.
Ultimately, four people were arrested at the scene, including a 17-year-old student at King College Prep High School.
The protesters staged the sit-in to call attention to the fact that the South Side has no trauma care centers that can treat adults for injuries sustained in shootings, stabbings, car accidents and other traumatic incidents. The U of C’s medical center only admits trauma victims up to age 16.
The movement for an adult trauma care center started shortly after Damian Turner was killed by gunfire in 2010, the unintended victim of a stray bullet three-and-a-half blocks from the University of Chicago Medical Center. He was transported about 10 miles away to Northwestern Memorial Hospital, which has a trauma care center that treats adults.
Most recently, two groups -- Fearless Leading by the Youth and its parent group Southside Together Organizing for Power -- have asked that the age limit for trauma victims at the U of C medical center be raised to 21.
Trauma centers are a significant drain on hospitals’ finances. The U. of C. Medical Center closed its trauma center for adults in 1988. U. of C. Medical Center officials have said establishing trauma center would come at the expense of other vital hospital programs.
Matt Ginsberg-Jaeckle, one of the organizers, said Sunday afternoon’s event protest was the most violent since the campaign began in 2010.
About 2 p.m., an estimated 50 protesters entered the hospital, one man announcing their intent to protest over a megaphone. Five protesters had planned to stay in the lobby and likely be arrested when most of the group would inevitably be kicked off the private property.
Before the majority of the group had a chance to leave on their own, however, University of Chicago police took out their batons and started shoving protesters toward the door, several people tripping and falling onto the floor in the middle of the crowd.
Veronica Morris-Moore, 20, had planned on staying until she was arrested. She was pushed to the ground in the doorway, where she screamed: “Let me go! Let me go!”
Nastasia Tangherlini, 21, a University of Chicago student, also ended up on the ground. After a struggle with officers, both women were released.
Turner’s mother said she was shoved onto her face by a university police officer during the protests. Although not seriously injured, she was visibly upset, with tears streaming down her cheeks after she got onto her feet.
“I was just standing there,” Sheila Rush, Turner’s mom, said.
The group’s camera man had been filming the events when a university police officer hit his camera, knocking off his headphones in the process before he was handcuffed on the ground.
Chicago police officers showed up at the scene minutes after university police started pushing the protesters out the door.
No major injuries were reported from the confrontation. University of Chicago police could not be reached Sunday for comment.
Besides the 17-year-old high school student, the other three arrested were a U of C student government leader, a camera man for the protesters and a member of the Fearless Leading by the Youth group. The 17-year-old student was released around 9:30 p.m. and 20 or so protesters sat in the police station lobby at West 51st Street and South Wentworth Avenue with food and blankets late Sunday night, awaiting the release of the other three arrestees.
Marcia Rothenberg, 79, was at the protest with her husband. A few years ago, they both were in a car accident five blocks from the hospital, but had to be taken in separate ambulances to Northwestern Memorial Hospital, about 10 miles away, she said.
“It’s not just poor, black kids who are shot who need this,” said Rothenberg, who is white. “It’s people like us, too.”
Morris-Moore, who wasn’t arrested but had planned to be, said she doesn’t regret coming to protest, even though she was apprehended temporarily by officers.
“It was intense,” Morris-Moore said. “But that’s what we need people to see.”
Fearless Leading by the Youth issued a statement Sunday night about the protest.
“We feel abused and disrespected and not heard but we are proud of what we did, we actually took action and showed them three years later we’re not going away,” the statement said. “Everybody was focused, we knew what our mission was, we were of one accord.”Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times