Media for the 99%

Statement: Why We Got Arrested at the University of Chicago

Four protesters demanding an expansion of trauma care services on the South Side were arrested during a sit-in at the University of Chicago Medical Center Sunday afternoon. The lack of trauma care services on the South Side is costing lives, and the University of Chicago should have a responsibility to its neighboring communities, demonstrators said.

Sheila Rush, whose 18-year-old son, Damian Turner, died while awaiting treatment for a gunshot wound, was among those participating. Turner was shot in August 2010 in a drive-by shooting four blocks from the Hyde Park hospital and died after being taken to the nearest Level-1 trauma center, at Northwestern Memorial Hospital, nearly ten miles away.

The demonstrators sought a commitment by the university to raise the age limit of patients treated from 16 to 21 “as an initial step towards providing trauma care” on the South Side. Campus police were called shortly after the start of the sit-in and made arrests [see video] within an hour. The lesson: If you’re on the South Side of Chicago and over the age of 16, it may take less time to be arrested for demanding a trauma center than it would to actually get to a trauma center.

Fearless Leading by the Youth, one of the organizations behind the sit-in, explained their motivations in the following statement released Sunday afternoon:

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!

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