Based in Toronto and New York City

, Nancy Matsumoto is a writer and editor who covers sustainable agriculture, food, sake, arts and culture.

"Hands off St. Vincent's" Takes Direct Action

The non-violent direct action group, Hands Off St. Vincent’s, orchestrated its latest action on February 8 in the lobby of the shuttered Village hospital. Four members of the group were arrested and spent a night in jail after they staged a sit-in and mock trial of politicians they charged with “neglect and complicity in allowing the closing of St. Vincent’s.”

As five police officers ushered the handcuffed protestors out of the building at 12th Street and 7th Avenue and into an awaiting police van, they shouted, “Land lock St. Vincent’s. Trauma One now!” “Land lock,” although not a legal term, is shorthand for demanding nothing less than a full-service hospital and Level One Trauma center on the site, equivalent to the level of care that the defunct St. Vincent’s provided. In that spirit, Community Board 2 has passed a resolution opposing any change in land use or zoning laws that would eliminate hospital use at the site.

Hands Off’s list of eight people they claim should have done more to save the hospital include U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer, Borough President Scott Stringer, State Senator Thomas Duane and former State Health Commissioner Richard Daines, who died on February 26.

Hands Off St. Vincent’s was founded by members of the Direct Action Committee of the Coalition for a New Village Hospital (as reported in February’s WestView), but has quickly established itself as a separate entity dedicated to more direct action. In addition to the February 8 sit-in, members peacefully protested outside of a February 2 fundraising event for City Council Speaker Christine Quinn. There, members held up a banner reading “Christine Quinn, you let St. Vincent’s close. Give us back our hospital.” One member questioned why Quinn’s fundraiser merited “cops and a full contingent of security,” paid for with public funds.

At a January 24 Town Hall meeting, Hands Off members held up placards protesting the lack of transparency in the hospital’s bankruptcy process. Hands Off members Timothy Lunceford and Evette Stark demanded an audit by the city and state comptrollers’ offices to track funds allocated to St. Vincent’s, which they assert were never accounted for.

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