A peaceful sit-in protest at the University of Chicago Medical Center turned violent Sunday when police appeared and arrested four demonstrators, witnesses say.
An estimated 50 protesters entered the hospital, located at S. Maryland and 57th on the city's South Side, around 2 p.m. to call for the new $700 million facility to treat adults in its trauma center, reports the Tribune. The group anticipated being kicked out of the private hospital and planned on five protesters remaining in the lobby where they would likely face arrest.
Duff Morton, a seventh-year U of C anthropology graduate student, told the university paper The Chicago Maroon the scene grew violent shortly after a group member declared the protesters’ peaceful intentions.
“The rest of us were in the lobby supporting, and two University of Chicago Police Department SUVs zipped up with sirens blaring, and as soon as they came in they started pulling people to the ground and hitting Toussaint [Losier] in particular and the cameraman [Alex Goldenberg],” Morton told the Maroon. “Once they got him [Toussaint] on the ground they just kept hitting him. It was really really shocking.”
South Side resident Veronica Morris-Moore told the Sun-Times she was kicked and pushed in her back.
“I’m very upset about being treated that way by male officers of the law,” Morris-Moore told the Sun-Times. “They treated me as if I had a gun in my hand. They took us down to the ground like we were vigilantes. We’re youth. The reason why we’re protesting on a Sunday is because tomorrow we have to go to school.”
By lacking adult trauma care, the group claimed the hospital ignores the needs of South Side residents, namely victims of gun violence, reports WGN. The Level 1 trauma center in the university's Children’s Comer Hospital only takes children up to age 16.
There are no adult trauma centers on the South Side, so most trauma victims taken to Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Streeterville, or Advocate Christ Medical Center in suburban Oak Lawn --both facilities that are located several miles away from the U of C facility.
Marcia Rothenberg, 79, attended the protest with her husband and told the Tribune the couple was in a car crash five blocks from the hospital several years ago. They had to be split up and taken in separate ambulances to Northwestern Memorial, roughly 10 miles away.
“It’s not just poor, black kids who are shot who need this,” said Rothenberg, who is white. “It’s people like us, too.”
In 2010, the death of 18-year-old Damian Turner grabbed national headlines after he was shot four blocks from the hospital, but couldn't receive treatment. The New York Times reported instead of being treated at U of C, Turner had to be taken to the nearest Level 1 trauma center, which was Northwestern Memorial. He died less than 90 minutes after being shot.
U of C ended its treatment of adult trauma victims in 1988, a decision the Times reports was made due to cost.
“We drew the entire South Side,” said medical center spokesman John Easton in a 2010 Times interview. “That became overwhelming. It put an enormous strain on the hospital.”
In all, four were arrested. The Maroon identified them as Toussaint Losier, an eighth-year graduate student in the U of C history department, Victoria Crider, 17, a student at King College Prep High School, Alex Goldenberg, the cameraman for Southsiders Together for Organizing Power, and Jacob Klippenstein, a representative from the Anti-Eviction Campaign.