HYDE PARK — University of Chicago Police removed protesters demanding the university open a trauma center who had chained themselves to machinery and blocked cement trucks at a university construction site Monday morning.
"It's worth getting arrested because people are dying," said Veronica Morris-Moore, one of four protesters who rushed into the work site of the hospital's new parking garage about 10 a.m. Monday.
The student and community groups are asking for medical facilities to treat the severely injured victims of car accidents and gunshot wounds.
Morris-Moore, an organizer for the Woodlawn group Fearless Leadership by the Youth, was taken to the University of Chicago’s emergency room for injuries to her wrist after being dragged by police from the construction site while still was locked to three other protesters by her wrist.
“We went limp and they had to drag us out,” said Joe Kaplan, a University of Chicago student who was locked in the line with Morris-Moore. “Veronica got hurt because they were pulling us and dragging her, at least from what I could tell — it was crazy in there.”
University of Chicago police officers escorted seven protesters from the construction site, all except for Morris-Moore were University of Chicago students. Once outside the gates, the protesters were swarmed by their supporters.
“I can’t really feel my hand,” cried Helena Bassett, a student organizer for Students for Health Equity, who said the binds on her wrist were forcibly pulled off by police.
None of the protesters was arrested and the university said it would not pursue charges against the protesters.
"Despite repeatedly offering the protesters alternative locations that are safe and on public property, they chose to remain on the construction site," the university said in a statement released Monday night. "As a result, we had no choice but to remove them from the location, for their safety and that of the workers at the site."
No trauma centers exist on the South Side and those who are severely injured are taken to trauma centers at Northwestern Memorial Hospital, Advocate Christ Medical Center or Stroger Hospital of Cook County.
Protesters said the University of Chicago should put off investments like the new parking garage until it can meet the need for trauma care on the South Side.
After a May 9 protest, the University of Chicago said in a statement that opening a trauma center would compromise the hospital’s ability to run its burn unit and the trauma unit for children at the Comer Children’s Hospital.
The protest on Monday kicks off a week of actions from groups that have pushed for more trauma care for the past four years. The events, which include a tour of trauma facilities by National Nurses United and a presentation from University of Chicago doctors in favor of trauma care, will end with a community march to the university on Friday.
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