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Nine Arrested At University Of Chicago Trauma Center Protest

By aaroncynic in News on Jun 4, 2015 5:10PM

Nine demonstrators who locked themselves inside an administration building at the University of Chicago last night were arrested after demanding the school work with activists to build a trauma center for the neighborhood.

Chicago firefighters broke through a window and drywall using crowbars and axes while also using a power saw to cut through bicycle locks demonstrators barred a door with. The nine were taken to District 2 police headquarters at 51st Street and Wentworth Avenue around 6:30 p.m. and as of this morning, are still being held without formal charges.

The sit-in, organized by the Trauma Center Coalition, began what organizers say will be a week-long series of actions to coincide with the university's Alumni weekend celebration, happening in conjunction with its $4.5 billion capital campaign. Organizers say the school has the ability and resources to help the community in which it resides to build a level 1 trauma center and that the administration, particularly President Robert Zimmer, has turned a deaf ear to them.

“We want to make sure alumni know where their donation dollars are going and we want to say we can't live with Robert Zimmer's definition of 'business as usual' any more,” Veronica Morris-Moore said in a press release. Moore was among those arrested, according to DNAInfo. “University of Chicago needs to open a trauma center now,”

A spokesperson for the university said the decision to have demonstrators removed by the fire department was made because they were blocking a fire exit and that the school had sent in staff and faculty to talk to them.

But activists say they’ve had little success in working with the university and last night’s arrests are just another example of the school unwilling to commit to working with them. “The actions of the university yesterday were profoundly disturbing and made it clear that the 'reasonable discourse' that they are always promoting is a myth,” said Darrius Lighfoot, a member of the group Fearless Leading by the Youth, which is part of the coalition.

Lorna Wong, a spokesperson for University of Chicago Medicine said officials are currently working on a feasibility study to determine the overall capacity of the center, and pointed to the center’s December announcement to expand its Level 1 pediatric trauma program to include 16 and 17 year olds.

“As our patient volume continues to grow, we are examining our overall clinical capacity, including what it would take to offer adult trauma care and its potential impact on our hospital and emergency room, which already are over capacity,” Wong said.

Activists say that’s far from adequate, as currently no trauma center for adults exists in the area and patients must be transported more than ten miles away. Organizers of the demonstration have also demanded the age at the pediatric center be raised to 21 and called for community input in the feasibility study. Medical center reps say raising the age at the pediatric center isn’t possible and haven't commented on the community input request.

A study by the Illinois Department of Public Health, however, said that University of Chicago is best positioned to expand access to trauma care.

“How could you ignore us when we’re dying at your door,” activist Jasmine Harris told CBS.