Hundreds of protesters were met by dozens of Chicago police officers
outfitted with riot gear in front of Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s North Side
Ravenswood home Saturday afternoon. While the Mayor wasn’t home, his
house was guarded by a line of officers who created a makeshift barrier
using their bicycles.
The protesters, many of whom sat down in the middle of North Hermitage Avenue for about 20 minutes, decried Emanuel’s closing of six city mental health facilities. Some of the mental health advocates in attendance were patients of the now-defunct clinics.
preparing for the march to the Mayor’s home, Diane Adams joined a group
of about 50 protesters outside the Irving Park CTA Brown Line stop
She held a sign urging drivers to “Honk for Health Care” and said she’s found it difficult to find a local replacement therapist since the mayor okayed the closing of the Auburn Gresham Mental Health Center.
“I went to Auburn Gresham, and they gave me stability, my confidence, and my self-esteem back,” said Adams, who has been dealing with thoughts of suicide for years. “With NATO, they getting $128 million. All we is asking for is $3 million.”
Later in the morning the group of protesters broke into groups of 10 to 20 people and began going to door-to-door handing out leaflets and asking Ravenswood residents if they knew where to find city-funded mental health facilities, or if they were aware that half of the city’s clinics were now closed.
Tom Westgard, a member of Occupy Rogers Park, said he’s been knocking on doors in other neighborhoods, like Woodlawn, where about a dozen protestors were arrested after a clinic was closed. Westgard said the reactions he got in Ravenswood were cold at best.
“This is the richest and whitest neighborhood I’ve done canvassing in. When I walked around Woodlawn, as a 42-year-old white man, people were welcoming. But people are a lot less friendly in [Ravenswood]. They don’t want to hear about the issue as much,” Westgard said.
Westgard said he thinks people are less receptive to the closures because Ravenswood residents tend to make more money and have better access to private health care.
After canvassing the neighborhood, the protesters moved to nearby Horner Park for lunch around 12 p.m. About an hour later the group began the 1.8 mile march to Mayor Emanuel’s home.
Meanwhile, the Mayor’s spokesperson has defended the closures saying that even though six facilities are now closed, services will eventually be expanded.
Here’s the official statement given to reporters at the rally:
The Emanuel Administration respects the First Amendment rights of all to demonstrate and express their views. The Administration is equally committed to promoting the health and wellness of Chicagoans in every neighborhood and the reforms the Department of Public Health is implementing will increase the total number of people who will be served by City resources throughout Chicago with high-quality, vital health and mental health services, and better support people without health insurance. Because of these reforms residents will have access to new services, more services, and better services.
Here's video from the day's events: