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Protesters Return Demanding Trauma Center at University of Chicago

By Sam Cholke | February 2, 2013 2:59pm

HYDE PARK — Protestors returned the University of Chicago Friday to demand the university reopen a trauma center and to lobby that charges against four protestors arrested by university police during a Jan. 27 sit-in be dropped.

“This has been such a powerful march, so much motivation,” said Darrius Lightfoot, a community organizer with Fearless Leadership by the Youth, which has demanding the University of Chicago open the South Side’s only trauma center for more than two years. “That’s why we’re going to keep this going.”

More than 200 protestors, many of them University of Chicago students, carried flowers up to university President Robert Zimmer’s office.

“I feel like the president is looking out here at everybody, this is so powerful and heartfelt,” said Shelia Rush, whose son’s death in 2010 in an ambulance on the way to Northwestern Memorial Hospital’s trauma center sparked the protests.

The arrest of four protestors at the university’s new hospital seems to have reinvigorated the group, and the event on Friday was the largest group action on trauma care since the early days of the protests in late 2010.

The Jan. 27 sit-in appears to also have prompted some reconsideration from the university. University representatives declined to comment on either action, but referred to a letter from Provost Thomas Rosenbaum.

“I will constitute a faculty committee to review and make recommendations about practices and policies regarding dissent and protest on campus,” Rosenbaum says in the letter. “Should protests in healthcare and research facilities with patients and technical equipment be treated differently than those in instructional or administrative buildings?”

Rosenbaum is also convening several forums with university faculty to discuss the role of the hospital in providing health care on the South Side and a reflection on Sunday’s actions from the perspective of race studies, community relations and graduate education.

All four of the protestors arrested on Jan. 27 were at the rally on Friday, but declined to comment on their arrest because legal action was still pending.