By: E&P Staff
Chicago Sun-Times reporter Steve Patterson was knocked to the ground, handcuffed and thrown in lockup by Cook County (Ill.) Hospital police as he covered a protest by a homeless advocacy group Thursday.
In a first-person account in Friday’s Sun-Times, Patterson described how an unidentified police sergeant, who had earlier to pushed him in the back, causing him to slip on water and fall, had ignored the reporter’s press ID and repeated pleas that he was only covering a demonstration by the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless outside the offices of Stroger Hospital head Dr. Robert Simon.
Patterson was actually on the phone with a county government spokesman as he was arrested.
“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,” Patterson wrote. As the reporter lay on the ground, he witnessed the following:
“‘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 sergeant alleged reporter Patterson had been chanting with the protesters earlier — and that he was “trespassing” because he didn’t have an appointment.
As Patterson was taken inside the hospital to a lock-up, he protested, saying, “I’m a reporter, in a public building, covering an event.” He was read is rights and told he was being charged with trespassing.
Patterson’s arrest did not last long because he had managed to tell county spokesman Steve Mayberry over his cell phone that he was being arrested as handcuffs were applied.
Patterson was released and escorted by the demonstrations — where his appearance was cheered by protesters who had said they weren’t going to leave until they saw him.
“A nice feeling, sure, but my head was still spinning all the same,” Patterson wrote. “I was just cuffed for the first time in my life, all because I was trying to convince them I was a reporter.”
In a separate Sun-Times story Friday, reporter Abdon M. Pallasch notes that the 59-officer police force at the hospital “has been a source of controversy since its 1973 creation.”
Just last month, a lawsuit was filed against the hospital alleging police pulled 77-year-old Augustin Sotomayor out of his car as he was waiting for his wife, demanded to know if he was an illegal alien, and beat him up. Sotomayor was hospitalized for two months and suffered a stroke after the beating, the paper noted.
The Sun-Times said last year it asked for copies of brutality complaints against the hospital police, a request that is still unfulfilled.
Cook County Board member Roberto Maldonado has tried in the past to disband the police force, and said in Friday’s Sun-Times that he hopes to renew the effort. “Those guys are so out of control,” Maldonado said.