NATO Summit

Religion calls for Preservation of Mental Clinics

Ronald Jackson stands outside Mayor Rahm Emanuel's home during a protest

Ronald Jackson stands outside Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s home during a protest

A man stood under the shaded part of a tree, trembling as he held onto what he would later explain as a knight stick.

He was covered in the shawls Jews wear for prayer and he slowly hobbled among the hundreds of protesters making their way to Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s house in insufficient sandals.

Ronald Jackson, 57, dressed as the modern-day Moses, would march that day to Emanuel’s house to lead the way for the preservation of the mental health clinics that the city plans to shutter.

“The mayor says ‘Well, you know what I’ll do, I’ll give you a 30 day bus pass,’ 30 days for someone that is running around with a mental problem is not good enough,” said Jackson.

For many protesters, the march wasn’t in the name of some distant, abstract notion, but rather a fight for life or death.

Emanuel plans to shut down six of its 12 public mental health clinics. It’s a decision that brought clinic barricades, arrests and a 24-7 vigil by protesters who hope to keep the clinics open. Emanuel says the consolidation plan will actually mean more care for the mentally ill.

“Rahm thinks by closing these clinics he is going to save the city $3.5 million,” he said. “Putting a person in a psyche-unit costs the city over $27,000 a week. The doctors have signed off on this. They (Emanuel and staff) don’t need to get approval by doctors; they need the community and the patient’s approval.”

Jackson said the protestors’ mission is to take all the screaming and yelling to city hall.

“Our job now is to go directly into the communities and let them know that this is an emergency,” he said. “We need the communities to back us.”

During ChicagoTalks’ conversation with Jackson, many people gawked and stared at him due to his unusual appearance.

“I am dressed like this because 40 years ago, the city of Chicago, during the Democratic Convention, police took nightsticks and beat people and put them in paddy wagons,” Jackson said.

“I’ve decided that my campaign is going further than 40 years, its going back 3,000 years. God spoke to Moses and he told him to lead his people. God told Moses to use what he had and then whispered to him ‘By God, stretch out your rod,’” Jackson continued.

Jackson said he believes by stretching out the rod, the sea is going to be parted.

“Stretching out our rod we are going to get to the other side,” he said. “We are going to have victory. Victory does not come over night.”

There was such emotion and sentiment that Jackson was holding back about the closings of mental institutions. It could be seen by his shaking and his grasping for words that this topic was close to his heart.

“I have been going to my clinic for 23 years which has been open for 30 years. This event makes me proud. We have a lot of people here from my clinic, along with others, which are all going to be closed.

This demonstration was not the first, and definitely won’t be the last. Jackson was associated with other demonstrations to keep Chicago’s clinics open.

“We took over the 6th and 3rd street’s clinic where 23 people were arrested. I was amongst those 23,” Jackson said. “I went to jail for the belief that we were warned to speak out and speak up. Later on we tried to speak to the Mayor at city hall. We were once again dragged off to jail. This is what democracy is.”

This is a collaboration of different parts of the city, telling the city that ‘This is our city.’ We will not give this up. Our city is being held hostage, and we are saying ‘no longer’,” Jackson said as he wiped beads of sweat running down his forehead and then sat down beneath the tree that shaded him.

Storify version published on Chicago Talks

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