Trauma center protesters banned by University speak on campus

Trauma center activists banned from campus alleged racism, police misconduct at a “teach-in” in on Wednesday night.

By Isaac Stein

On Wednesday evening, a crowd of more than 60 people gathered in the basement of Stuart Hall for a teach-in held by the Trauma Center Coalition (TCC) on the recent history of its protests. Though the police could have entered the building at any point to remove the TCC members who are legally banned from the University, the event proceeded without incident.

TCC is an umbrella activist group that includes the RSO Students for Health Equity (SHE), Fearless Leading by the Youth (FLY), and Southside Together Organizing for Power (STOP). Last June, nine TCC members were arrested at a protest for the construction of an Adult Level I Trauma Center at The University of Chicago Medical Center (UCMC), at which they barricaded themselves into Levi Hall.

After the arrests, the University’s Office of Legal Counsel invoked its “No Trespass (Ban) Policy” to order eight of the protesters, who were not current University students, to not return to campus, or potentially face arrest for trespassing. The policy states that “the University exercises its right to deny access to some or all University property” if it determines that an individual “has engaged, or is reasonably likely to engage, in criminal activity [or] a violation of University policy.”

The policy also states that banned individuals may file a written request for a review of their “no- trespass warning,” but third-year Natalie Naculich, a member of SHE, said that “[none] of the banned activists have petitioned to have the ban removed.”

For Veronica Morris-Moore, a member of FLY who was arrested and received a ban order, an ongoing ban for urging the UCMC to build a trauma center in Hyde Park is contrary to its stated interest in expanding trauma services. In September, the UCMC announced that it plans to co-sponsor the same type of facility at Holy Cross Hospital in the Chicago Lawn neighborhood.  She added her belief that both the University of Chicago Police (UCPD) and the Chicago Police Department (CPD) mistreated her during the June arrest, and that University administrators’ indifference to the protesters was racially motivated.

“Usually, when you get arrested at a protest, you’re processed within 10 hours for a misdemeanor, and are released. But we were chained to a wall for seven hours before we were even sent to lockup; in total, we spent 48 hours in jail. I can assure you that if [trauma care on the South Side] was an issue that affected young white people, the administration would have taken our demands seriously,” Morris-Moore said.

Marla Bramble, a TCC member who, at a separate protest last June, was punched by Russ Zajtchuk, an alumnus who previously served as the president of the Medical & Biological Sciences Alumni Association, added that she thinks that the bans on TCC members should be lifted because the University police did not uphold rule of law when she was assaulted.

“He punched me in the chest, and then just walked away, and got onto a bus. Had there not been a number of our brave [TCC members] to line up in front of the bus, he would have gotten away. There was a UCPD officer a few feet away, but he didn’t do anything, despite me asking him three times to apprehend [Zajtchuk],” Bramble said.

After discussing its recent past, TCC said that it does not have any plans for protests related to the proposed trauma center at Holy Cross Hospital. Its next protest, which aims to pressure the UCMC to immediately follow through with its 2014 announcement that it will raise the maximum age of pediatric trauma patients that it accepts at its Hyde Park facility from 15 to 17 years of age, will take place on December 3 at noon. Morris-Moore added that she cares strongly about the issue, in part because Damian Turner, her friend and fellow FLY activist, exceeded the age limit for transport to the UCMC when he was fatally shot in 2010.

“We live in the ‘hood, we’re poor, some of us don’t even have high school educations, but we commit, we dedicate, and we do what needs to be done. My friend was gunned down, and that was one of the things I carried.”