CHICAGO — Security guards asked demonstrators to leave an unopened new hospital at the University of Chicago before police removed them from the building, university officials said Monday.
Four demonstrators were arrested Sunday after they entered the $700-million Center for Care and Discovery protesting the university's lack of adult trauma units, officials said.
All four were charged with misdemeanor trespassing, according to the university, which did not name the four. One was also charged with misdemeanor resisting arrest. One of the people arrested is a current student at the university.
Several dozen demonstrators entered the building Sunday afternoon without permission during an invitation-only tour, the university said. After demonstrators were asked to leave, first by a security guard, then by university police, officers moved to remove them from the building, setting off several confrontations, the university said. A university police officer suffered a knee injury and was treated in a university emergency room, the school said.
But the demonstrators say their protest was peaceful. As of Monday evening, an online petition calling on the university to explain police conduct at Sunday's protest had garnered nearly 1,000 signers. The only violence at the event was caused by the police, the petition claims.
The university said it would further review video recorded at the event and interview witnesses.
"Free expression is at the core of the University’s values, and University officials have worked for several years with protesters related to the group involved this weekend," the university said in a statement Monday. "Previous protests, which have remained on the public way, have concluded peacefully."
In 2010, local residents called for a new trauma center after the death of 18-year-old Damian Turner, who was shot a half-mile from the University of Chicago Hospitals, but had to be taken to Northwestern Memorial Hospital, more than eight miles away. The community organization Southside Together Organizing for Power has since organized protests against the lack of adult trauma centers at the university.
"All the mothers out there or anyone who has lost someone near to this hospital, we need you to come together for this fight," said Turner's mother, Sheila Rush, said following the protest Sunday, according to a video posted to YouTube by the protesters. "It's not going to go away and we're not going to go away. We stand for justice and peace and we want the trauma center."
The hospitals opted not to renew its application to be part of the region's adult trauma network in 1988, instead choosing to focus its trauma attention on children age 16 and younger, according to university literature. University of Chicago's adult hospital was much too small to handle trauma care and instead focused on advanced surgeries that are not provided by other South Side hospitals.
The university is set to open the 10-story Center for Care and Discovery building late next month. It will expand specialty care options, but will not have an adult trauma center.