HYDE PARK — Tension mounted again as protesters at University of Chicago continued a week of events Saturday, during which an alum of the university allegedly attacked protesters and was arrested by U. of C. police.
Russ Zajtchuk, who graduated from the school in 1960 and from the medical school in 1963, was arrested and charged with simple battery, university spokesman Jeremy Manier said. He was released on bond late last night.
Protesters from the Trauma Center Coalition, nine of whom were arrested at a sit-in Thursday night, disrupted an Alumni Awards Ceremony at Rockefeller Chapel, 5850 S. Woodlawn Ave. Saturday morning around 10:45 a.m., according to a TCC press release.
University of Chicago President Robert Zimmer was to deliver a speech at the event. The protesters seek a meeting with Zimmer, in addition to adding an adult trauma center and increasing the age of its current pediatric trauma center to 21, among other demands.
The "die-in," which included 150 supporters according to TCC, disrupted the event and forced it to be cancelled.
"The protesters carried large banners into Rockefeller Memorial Chapel, shouted loudly, laid down at the front of the chapel and refused to leave and allow the program to continue," said Jeremy Manier, a University of Chicago spokesman.
Zajtchuk, who was walking out of the cancelled event, "punched one faith leader, charged at and kicked a current student organizer, and pushed our student videographer's camera into her face," the TCC press release stated. "Activists were forced to block traffic to stop the alum from fleeing the scene and to ensure that he was arrested."
Russ Zajtchuk was the president of the Medical & Biological Sciences Alumni Association in 2007.
"Any attack on a protester is deplorable," Manier said, adding, "It is unacceptable that this protest in Rockefeller Chapel forced the cancellation of an event intended to honor alumni who have done great service for society over many decades."
The TCC press release quoted student activist Sydelle Keisler, saying, "I am horrified that the simple demand for a trauma center to save black lives on the south side would provoke such extreme and unwarranted violence from an alum who is so highly esteemed by the university."
A statement issued by the university spokeswoman Lorna Wong about the trauma center issue said that the pediatric trauma care center seeks to expand its service to 17- and 18-year-olds and is continuing to work on improving access to health care, adding that its hospital and emergency room are already over capacity.
Wong said, "Building an adult level 1 trauma center on the South Side is not something the University of Chicago Medical Center can undertake alone. A trauma center is a demanding public service that requires a geographic assessment, as well as coordination and planning by the city and state, as well as other health care providers throughout Chicago."
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