Updated: Protesters stage City Hall sit-in against clinic cuts

It started off as a press conference this morning at the Chicago Temple, with 150 people reportedly gathering to share their stories about the need for Chicago's public mental health clinics. Now, a dozen of those protesters are sitting outside Mayor Rahm Emanuel's door on the fifth floor of City Hall. They're demanding a change in his proposed budget plan, which calls for closing half of the city's 12 clinics.

The Associated Press reports that protesters have flooded into a hallway beside the mayor's office, but apparently Emanuel isn't at his desk.

Matt Ginsburg-Jaeckle, an organizer with Southside Together Organizing for Power, is one among those camped out at  Emanuel's office. Although he wasn't available to talk on the phone, he did send a response to one of my questions via text: How long are you guys planning to stay?

"'Till they close at 6 and arrest us," he replied.

STOP also sent out text messages calling for additional supporters. Ginsberg-Jaeckle said about 50 people from the Occupy Chicago protest arrived at 3:40 p.m.

Here's a few tweets from around the web with pictures:

More from last night's coverage:

WLS, a ABC affiliate, on relationship between police and protesters:

WBBM, a CBS affiliate, reported that protesters ended their 10-hour sit-in at 10:30 p.m., saying they want a meeting with Emanuel about budget cuts. WMAQ, a NBC affiliate, also mentioned the protest on its blog, including quotes from 2nd Ward Alderman Bob Fioretti, who says he's concerned that the clinic shut-downs will hurt "the most vulnerable of our citizens." Emanuel's spokeswoman, Tarrah Cooper, countered with a response from the mayor's office:

"The administration is firmly committed to providing Chicago residents with the highest level of patient care across all of our programs, including mental health services. The budget proposal would allow the city to partner with community providers, delivering needed services at a lower cost while still maintaining a high level of care for uninsured patients and those most in need within their own neighborhoods and communities, and the administration is putting an additional $500,000 towards psychiatric services, a top priority expressed by mental health providers," Cooper said.

The Chicago News Cooperative reported this morning that STOP was "behind" the protest, recalling its fight two years ago when the group stopped Mayor Richard M. Daley from closing mental health clinics.

The Chicago Tribune reported that in the later hours of the protest, the activists began wearing hospital gowns, declaring the fifth floor "Rahm Emanuel's psych ward." The Tribune also reported that after the building closed, police refused to allow protesters to use City Hall bathrooms, which caused many to leave. Those who left were not allowed back into the building. Although not allowed access to the bathroom, food was permitted:

Just before 10 p.m., a supporter of the protesters was able to bring two pizzas up to the fifth floor, even though police were trying to prevent people from entering the building.

The pizzas were met with cheers from the protesters and glares from some of the police officers, one of whom took the elevator back down to the first floor with the woman who brought the pizzas. He could be heard asking for her identification as the doors closed.

A few minutes later, one of the protesters offered a sergeant a slice of pizza in exchange for access to a bathroom. The sergeant laughed and declined the offer.

The sit-in was mentioned by both The Boston Globe and The Washington Post as part of the latest news on the nation-wide Occupy protests.

Will activists from STOP get their meeting with the mayor? We'll let you know.

© Community Renewal Society 2011

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  • Ah, the 99%...with mental health problems.

    Makes sense they're protesting cuts to mental health clinics.

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