Arrested protestors for trauma center appear in court, are released

“The point was to draw attention to the issue and show how far we are able to go.”

By Katherine Vega

On Tuesday, nine members of the Trauma Center Coalition (TCC), seven of whom are UChicago students and members of Students for Health Equity (SHE) and two of whom are from Fearless Leading by the Youth (FLY), appeared in court and were released without charges. The activists were arrested on March 5 and were charged with Class C misdemeanors for disturbing the flow of traffic after making a human chain across Michigan Avenue at a protest downtown.

The protest, located near an event for Impact and Inquiry, a $4.5-billion University fundraising campaign, was aimed to raise awareness about the lack of a Level I trauma center on the South Side. According to the Illinois General Assembly website, Class C misdemeanors are punishable by a maximum sentence of 30 days in prison or a $1,500 fine.

The court appearance, which took place at 9 a.m., only lasted approximately 45 minutes, according to third-year SHE organizer Kayli Horne. All nine arrested protesters faced the judge at the same time.

“Because the police officers [who arrested us] didn’t show up to court, the charges were dropped. So there’s no further action that needs to be taken…. It seemed to be a pretty quick process,” Horne said.

After being arrested on March 5, the students were taken to a precinct on the North Side, according to Veronica Morris-Moore, a community organizer, youth program coordinator for Woodlawn’s Fearless Leading by the Youth (FLY), and student at Harold Washington College. The nine arrested protesters were held at the precinct for approximately six hours while they were processed.

Morris-Moore, who has had two other altercations with the police in trauma center–related protests near campus, said that in her own opinion, the people she was with in the holding cell were treated well by police officers.

“We [in the female holding cell] were allowed to be together. We talked. We told stories. We did hair. And the police were very nice,” Morris-Moore said.

However, Horne refused to comment on the treatment of the protesters while they were in the holding cell.

Although the University never officially acknowledged or contacted any of the protesters to Horne’s knowledge, she still believes that the arrests had a tangible effect on campus.

For instance, the same day that the nine arrested protesters appeared in court, an “action,” or rally, was held after school outside of Levi Hall, the administrative building on campus that houses the offices of high-level faculty. Morris-Moore and a local rabbi, among others, gave speeches at the event. Based on photos from the SHE Twitter page, approximately 30 people attended the rally.

The rally also popularized “#TraumaCenterNow” on Twitter the day of the court appearance, with several members of the University, Hyde Park, and surrounding communities voicing their support for the trauma center campaign.

“The point was not to have to get arrested and go to jail. The point was to draw attention to the issue and show how far we are able to go as part of the campaign to put pressure on [Pritzker School of Medicine Dean] Kenneth Polonsky and [President of the University of Chicago Medical Center (UCMC)] Sharon O’Keefe,” Horne said.

Morris-Moore also felt that the fact that they were arrested helped give their cause a wider audience. “I think that [the arrest] was important because the message wouldn’t have had the reach that it has…. Throughout history, that’s how great social justice leaders reached the masses…. For me, it’s a very proud moment…. I am honored to say that I did something like that,” Morris-Moore said.

Editor’s Note: Sarah Manhardt is a member of Pi Beta Phi. She had no involvement in this article.