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Trauma center protesters arrested at University of Chicago

Nine protesters were arrested at the University of Chicago Wednesday, after they barricaded themselves inside an administration building vestibule and disabled the elevators, according to a university spokesman.

The Trauma Center Coalition protest lasted about two hours, until police and fire officials arrived to restore access to the building, officials said.

“The University of Chicago is deeply committed to ensuring freedom of expression and the rights of protesters to express a wide range of views,” said Jeremy Manier, a university spokesman in a prepared statement. “Actions that endanger the safety of our community members or violate the laws that protect our community are unacceptable.”

The protesters — who occupied the vestibule at the south entrance of Levi Hall — have been charged with criminal trespassing, mob action and resisting/obstructing a peace officer, officials said.

The coalition, which is pushing the university to build a Level 1 trauma center, was demanding the protesters’ immediate release on Thursday. The detained protesters — four men and five women — include one University of Chicago student, said Shiro Wachira, a spokeswoman for the coalition.

Wachira accused the university of escalating the situation at Levy Hall by failing to meet any of the group’s demands, including facilitating a meeting with university President Robert Zimmer.

In an online post, the protesters said firefighters cut through drywall and broke windows to end the sit-in.

Wachira said previous meetings with a variety of university deans have gone nowhere because those lower-level officials don’t have “decision-making power.”