Emanuel's own neighborhood no refuge from weekend protests

Rally focused on consolidation of Chicago's mental health clinic sites.

May 19, 2012

The Associated Press, Odette Yousef, and Shawn Allee

(WBEZ/Odette Yousef)
Jesus Campuzano joined a rally in front of Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel's home, in protest of the consolidation of city mental health clinics.
(WBEZ/Odette Yousef)
Police line up to keep protesters from getting too close to the home of Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

Protesters angry over ongoing consolidation of the city of Chicago mental health clinics took their argument directly to Mayor Rahm Emanuel's neighborhood, just a day before the start of the NATO summit. They were met by Chicago police, who stood guard with bicycles lined up before the mayor's Northwest Side home. The officers wore helmets with face shields.

Some of the protesters sat in the middle of the street while others climbed trees. The majority of the protesters marched to the mayor's home from a nearby park, stopping traffic on city streets along the way.

One protester, 57-year-old N'Dana Carter, gave a speech Saturday afternoon about cuts to mental health programs. She said the protesters were exercising their power to tell Emanuel what they want. 

The rally was organized around changes the city's made to its mental health care services, a system that's currently transitioning from 12 clinics to six. Two were shut down in April.

The clinics issue predates most NATO summit media coverage, but that didn't stop protester Zakiyyah Muhammad from drawing a connection between mental health and the meeting of the international military alliance. 

"The money that was spent just to welcome ... NATO for their comfort and convenience, could have gone to the money the mental health patients need," Muhammad said.

Another protester, Jesus Campuzano, suffers from depression, a diagnosis he said was made through one of the private agencies the city now contracts with. Still, he said, he supports the old system. 

"Where do they expect the mental health people to go?" he said. "What's kept me moving is this movement itself."

A city spokesperson took aim at several of the protesters' claims that patients in need would not receive mental health services. In a written statement, the spokesperson said the consolidation will allow the city to serve more, not fewer, patients overall, though in April City Hall did acknowledge that some patients would need assistance in paying public transit fare to and from more far-flung sites.