Protesters camp outside shuttered Woodlawn Clinic

May 18, 2012 (CHICAGO)

Demonstrators were camping in a lot across from the mental health clinic, demanding that it reopen.

Most were still sleeping underneath tarps and blankets and had a campfire going at 5:30 a.m. They woke up and cooked lunch by campfire later Friday.

The city recently closed the health center as part of a plan to slash the budget. The city says closing Woodlawn and five other centers like it will save $3 million. Officials claim that mental health services will go on uninterrupted. Demonstrators say people who need the help the most will suffer.

There have been arrests in previous protests at Woodlawn, but as of 5:30 a.m., things were fairly peaceful.

"We should take care of problems at home. There is a lot of sick people. There is no time or excuse for cutting services. These clinics are a trifle $3 million in a city budget that counts in the billions. It's a shame," said Richard Del Rio, Mental Health Movement.

Last month, the center closed its doors. The city is shutting it down along with five others to save $3 million and consolidate public mental health services.

"Three years ago, four public mental health clinics were closed for the exact same reason and they managed to be reopened because of our negotiations and our work five days later. This is a different administration. It's going to take longer," said N'Dana Carter, Mental Health Movement.

Members of the Mental Health Movement are back for NATO and joining them are protesters from around the country, like Chris Philips. He drove from Buffalo, New York, and has been part of Occupy Wall Street.

"The money is so poorly spent in terms of national or state funds; we're talking about wealth care instead of health care. That's not right," he said.

Protesters say that hundreds more are expected to arrive on the lot later. The city insists that it's not cutting services, just consolidating. A city spokesperson says that more people will actually be helped. Police were on site but the protest has been peaceful.

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