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Hospital cop: You think this is a game?
Stroger Hospital police slap cuffs on Sun-Times reporter

Friday, February 16, 2007
Chicago Sun-Times
by STEVE PATTERSON Staff Reporter

Handcuffs on one hand, a cell phone and note pad in the other, I was doing my best to convince a Stroger Hospital police sergeant that I really was a reporter.
Covering a protest by the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless outside the offices of hospital chief Dr. Robert Simon, I had my press ID, was on the phone with the county spokesman, and the hospital spokesman was nearby.
"I'm a reporter," I implored. "I'm not with them."
Pushed to the ground earlier, I was desperate to find anyone who could help convince the sergeant that I was a reporter -- not a protester.
I had backed away from the protesters, who were upset about comments Simon made in a Chicago Reader story years ago, and I repeated again that I was a reporter covering an event, to no avail.
"Cuff his ass," I heard. "Cuff him. Cuff him."
"You think this is a game?" the sergeant asked me. "I ain't playin'."
'Get up. Quit acting'
This was the same guy who, just minutes earlier, had stormed in loudly with other officers, very aggressively and forcefully announcing their presence and demanding the protesters leave.
The guy who had his hand on his gun as he made those demands.
The guy who had given me enough of a forearm to the back earlier -- I then slipped on water and fell -- that I had no plans to "play," as he said.
"Get up," he said. "Quit acting."
I was told I was seen chanting with the protesters, that I didn't have an appointment, and that I was trespassing.
And, he reminded me, "If I wanted you down, you'd have been down."
As he led me to an elevator, I told him I was confused -- "I'm not with them. I don't understand."
"Oh, you're going to understand," the sergeant said as the elevator doors closed.
Through corridors and down hallways, past patients and doctors, I was escorted in handcuffs through the labyrinth of Stroger Hospital.
Again, I said, I'm a reporter, in a public building, covering an event -- that's when I was read my rights, told I was being charged with trespassing.
"You didn't have an appointment," I was told. "You were trespassing."
Taken into a room, I was frisked, and my items were taken away.
My pager, I told him.
You missed my pager.
Head was still spinning
From there, it was into a holding cell, where I remained less than five minutes.
That call I'd made as the cuffs were going on was to county spokesman Steve Mayberry, telling him enough that he knew I was being arrested, before my phone was taken away -- and he had convinced officials I really was a reporter and to take the handcuffs off.
I was allowed to call my editor, before a report was taken and Don Rashid -- the hospital spokesman who earlier said nothing and did nothing to stop my arrest -- walked in.
He politely escorted me to the protesters, who cheered and said they weren't going to leave until they saw me again.
A nice feeling, sure, but my head was still spinning all the same. I was just cuffed for the first time in my life, all because I was trying to convince them I was a reporter.
A reporter who was hoping to ask Simon for a comment, as the protesters left, but who was arrested instead.
And even as those protesters stood outside later, handing out leaflets to visitors, another sergeant chastised them and pointed his finger at those he believed were helping them.
Ed Shurna, protest organizer, said, "We're just trying to make a statement."
Instead, it was Stroger Hospital's police force that made the statement.


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