Nine activists with the campaign for a South Side trauma center were arrested Wednesday night after they shut themselves inside the university's administrative building as part of a sit-in.
The protesters, who were calling for a meeting with U of C President Robert Zimmer to discuss their demands, reportedly kept the doors of the administrative building shut with a bike lock, and firefighters had to forcibly enter the building with tools.
"At 6pm today, the University of Chicago Police Department sent in Chicago Firefighters to the UofC administrative building to cut through drywall with axes and break through glass windows with crowbars and a power saw. Protestors had been peacefully sitting-in the building to protest the U of C's refusal to open an adult trauma center," a statement from Trauma Care Coalition reads.
The protesters expressed concern about the forcible response to their sit-in.
"The Trauma Care Coalition is horrified by the course of action that the University of Chicago chose to take in the face of peaceful protest," said Veronica Morris-Moore, a leader from the Trauma Care Coalition, who added that she was "scared by the University's use of force."
"I was terrified of the UofC administration today," student organizer Aqsa Ahmad echoed. "Not only do they refuse to open a level one trauma center, but they are not above terrorizing their own students engaging in peaceful direct action."
Wednesday's protest was the start of what Trauma Care Coalition activists say will be a week of actions to coincide with the university's Alumni Weekend. Despite Wednesday's incident, the group plans to continue their planned actions for the week.
"Intimidation and repression from the University of Chicago will not stop our weekend of actions," said Ahmad. "There will be no more business as usual for President Zimmer until he agrees to meet with the Trauma Care Coalition."
Since 2010, members of the Trauma Care Coalition have been demanding that U of C re-open a Level 1 adult trauma center on the city's South Side, which currently lacks such a facility. The U of C Medical Center opened a Level 1 adult trauma center back in 1986, but closed it in 1988 for financial reasons.
The U of C Medical Center currently runs a Level 1 pediatric trauma center at Comer Children's Hospital. The medical center announced in December that its pediatric trauma program will be expanded to include 16- and 17-year-olds, up from the previous age limit of 15.
A U of C Medical Center spokeswoman told DNAinfo Chicago on Wednesday that the university is working to determine the medical system's total clinical capacity through a feasibility study.
"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," the spokeswoman said.
Meanwhile, the Trauma Care Coalition is making the following demands: