December 6, 2022
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Youths demand money for mental health, protest increased funding for police

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Holding aloft banners that read “Treatment, not trauma,” about 100 youth protesters filled the lobby of City Hall Friday to push for more mental health clinics in impoverished parts of the city while demanding less money for city cops.

The protesters were drawing attention to a question on the ballot this November that asks voters in the 20th and 33rd wards, as well as in four precincts of the 6th Ward, if they want to see the mental health clinics that former Mayor Rahm Emanuel shut down in 2012 reopened.

The protest occurred as the City Council considered Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s proposed $100 million increase in the Chicago Police Department’s budget for 2023. The money is expected to pay for new police helicopters, replacing the aging vehicle fleet and consent decree compliance. It’s part of Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s $16.4 billion proposed budget.

Asha Ransby-Sporn, an activist with the Treatment, Not Trauma Campaign, said her conversations with people in predominantly Black and Brown communities in the city reveal they don’t necessarily want a greater police presence.

“When you talk to people about why they’re asking sometimes for more police, really what it is is that there are problems in our communities, and police are one of the only things we’ve seen presented as a real option,” Ransby-Sporn said.

Carlos Reyes, a sixth-grader at Brighton Park Elementary School, said money was being wasted on the police.

“With mental health clinics, there won’t be as much violence,” Reyes said.“Some people are mad or sad because of the things that happen in their lives, and they need help, not to be detained.”

Said Asha Edwards, a student at the University of Illinois Chicago: “I want treatment, not trauma, because I shouldn’t be terrified that I or a loved one may lose their life or get brutalized by the police due to having a mental health crisis. Police are not trained mental health professionals and are trigger-happy to control the situation through violence, which simply doesn’t work and just stresses us more.”

Edwards said her experience in calling the police to get a loved one to the hospital was “terrible.”

“They asked us if we wanted my loved one charged, and then they questioned to see if we were on meds; we were not,” Edwards said. “Another time, I was being escorted by the police toa hospital. It was humiliating, being put in the back seat of a police vehicle with police in uniforms with their guns. And then to hear the nurse say, ‘Patient or suspect?’”





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