Jan 27 2013

Peaceful Protesters Are Violently Arrested For Demanding Access to Healthcare

UPDATES: You can hear Toussaint & Alex speaking for themselves this morning in this WGN-TV report The University of Chicago has issued a statement on the arrests.

Several friends and allies were arrested this afternoon/evening as they protested at the new University of Chicago Hospital. Below is a photo of my friend Toussaint being roughly handled by police:

Toussaint being roughly treated by the police (1/27/13, Chicago)

Toussaint being roughly treated by the police (1/27/13, Chicago)

The Chicago Tribune reports:

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 Tribune has some video of the protesters explaining their demands and their treatment at the hands of the University police:

Here is some video of protesters being arrested and assaulted by the police:

More video from the protest:

For some background about the history of this struggle, read this article in Colorlines. For information about the lead organization in this struggle, click here.

The young people of Fearless Leading By the Youth (FLY) have issued a statement about today’s events. Here it is in its entirety:

Youth protest for life-saving trauma care met with police violence
Statement from Fearless Leading by the Youth

Youth are dying everyday on the south side. It is all over the press all over the country. But they are not talking about how the people who could help save lives are willing to let us die because they’re greedy. Everyone wants to talk about the youth, but when we talk, instead of listening, they lock us up and brutalize us.

The University of Chicago is a few blocks from where we live, one of the areas where the violence is worst. They are the richest hospital in Chicago but have no trauma care for anyone over 16. The whole south side has none because health care in our country is about profit, not about helping people who need it. That’s why the violence is so bad, because we don’t have what we need to survive. We live in neighborhoods where there’s no resources, no jobs, no youth programs, no mental health services, and the little they had they are taking away.

Fearless Leading by the Youth has been fighting for three years to change that, ever since our co-founder Damian Turner was shot by a stray bullet four blocks from the U of C but bled to death during the 10 mile ride to the nearest adult trauma center – Northwestern Hospital.

Today the University of Chicago showed how they feel about youth, especially black youth and allies who support us. We came peacefully to their new building, which they spent over $700 million on. Our point was if you can find that kind of money, you can save lives of the community around you. They are building this big flashy building right in the middle of our neighborhoods but they don’t want to open up their doors to us, you got to flash your insurance card to get your life saved. We want a trauma center for our neighborhood, and as a first step we want them to increase the age limit on their children’s trauma center to 21.

We had tickets to a tour of that building but their police said, “this ain’t for y’all, get out.” Then they started dragging us out, pushing us with batons, shoving us. They had male officers pulling young women across the ground. They even shoved and bruised Damian’s mom. They knew they were wrong, they slammed our cameraman on the ground and arrested him.

We have been peacefully protesting since Damian died. We’ve sent letters, held forums, and done lots of protests. We are sick and tired of not being heard and today, a week after Martin Luther King Day, we did a sit-in to get them to finally hear us and they responded like they did to Dr. King, with brutality.

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. Everybody was focused, we knew what our mission was, we were of one accord. We knew what we came for we came to send a clear message – how can you ignore we’re dying at your door.

We’re the future and we aren’t giving up and we’re, aren’t going away. Health care is a human right and we won’t go without a fight!

As my friend Dara just expressed on Facebook: “For all those folks talking about gun violence and homicides in Chicago, pay attention to the trauma center demand too. The young folks at Fearless Leading by the Youth (F.L.Y) say that if they had a trauma center on the southside, we wouldn’t have as many deaths.” She is of course 100% right about this.

How you can support those arrested:
1. If you are a staff person or student at the University of Chicago, please call University Police and ask them to DROP CHARGES against protesters. Call 773-702-8190.. “If you don’t get through to UCPD that way try 773.702.8181. They might not respond positively either but you CAN ask to be transferred to the sargent in command, and leave a message in his voicemail box if you have to.”
2. Ask the U of C administrators TO ENCOURAGE UCPD TO DROP CHARGES. Email U of Chicago President Robert J Zimmer at president@uchicago.edu and tell him that the University Police should DROP charges against protesters. They were simply exercising their freedom of speech. Here are other administrators to email as well: Vice President for Campus Life Karen Coleman: kwcoleman@uchicago.edu, Provost Thomas Rosenbaum: t-rosenbaum@uchicago.edu, Dean of the Medical School Kenneth Polonsky: polonsky@bsd.uchicago.edu, VP for Administration Nim Chinniah: nim.chinniah@uchicago.edu, Chief of Police Marlon Lynch: mclynch@uchicago.edu
3. Sign this petitition asking the U of C police to explain the violence here.
4. And finally, feel free to send the youth from FLY a note of solidarity, encouraging them to continue struggling fearlessly! They can be reached at: flyleadingbytheyouth@gmail.com

More images from the protest:

Alex peacefully protesting of U of Chicago Hospital. Subsequently arrested.

Alex peacefully protesting of U of Chicago Hospital. Subsequently arrested.

STOP U of C Trauma Center Protest

STOP U of C Trauma Center Protest

As of early this morning, all three remaining arrested protesters were released. Below is a photograph that includes Toussaint and Alex outside of the police station.


I leave you with a music video by the youth of FLY explaining why they feel so strongly that their community needs a trauma center that also serves their peers: