Chicago, IL – Since I did not get to publicly protest on this movement, I took an opportunity to put my thoughts into the public record in court when I pled guilty for criminal trespassing for being barricaded inside the Woodlawn Mental Health Clinic on 4/13.
They call me Sugar. Being a protester with the Occupy Movement has meant that ever since the mayor’s budget proposal, which included closing half of the mental health clinics while privatizing the other half, I knew my battle. My family has a history of mental health issues. I still have the scars on my wrists from when I tried to kill myself and I still fight panic attacks. I understand why these services save lives.
On Wednesday, April 11th, I heard a rumor that clients were going to occupy the Woodlawn Clinic. As a protester, I was motivated, but I knew my role in this battle was not to protest. It was to be a neutral medic providing a service to these clients in their desperate attempt to save their lifeline.
On Thursday, April 12th I took my place in a proud history of street medics, which began during the Civil Rights Movement out of necessity to treat protesters being brutalized by police, a system, and society. Today’s suppression and abuse comes from the Rahm Machine and focuses its violence on the mentally ill and poor, leaving it to the emergency rooms, police, and courts like these to replace treatment.
As the primary medic at the Woodlawn Occupation I have helped clients feel safe and cared for. I listen. I hug. And, more often than should happen, I treat handcuff injuries on protesters and the strong, amazing, and desperate clients who do not back down from the Rahm Machine. I have witnessed a community step up and lend their voices, provide food, and share their stories of why these clinics are important to them. This movement has moved me in ways that I do not even know how to express.
What Rahm is doing is wrong. His priorities are skewed. He claims that closing these clinics is about money. But how is it fiscally responsible to close these clinics to save “$3 million” when it throws onto the hospital and justice system the extra workload and expenses, which well exceed the $3 million in savings, and also allows people to die? How is it that he can pressure Pastor Finny to lie about owning property in order to illegally evict the Woodlawn Occupation and get away with it?
Everyone in this movement has personally felt the hand of this immorally, repugnant machine come smacking down. Yet we stand, unwavering. I am honored and humbled to have the backs of those on the front line.
I plead guilty today, not because I am on the wrong side of history, but out of necessity. I wish I could go to trial, but speaking today has got to be enough. I stand in solidarity.
The judge smiled and thanked us for the work we were doing to improve the community. She respected what we were doing and respected us as individuals.
-Sugar- (photo from the Occupied Chicago Tribune)
Editors note: Read more of our ongoing coverage of the Woodlawn Occupation (still going strong!)