Early on the morning of July 14, 1970, the Young Lords, a predominantly Puerto Rican group of community activists in New York City, storm Lincoln Hospital in the South Bronx and barricade themselves inside. The Young Lords claimed the hospital as their own, placing a Puerto Rican flag on the roof and flying signs from its windows reading “Welcome to the people’s hospital” and “Bienvenidos al hospital del pueblo.” It was the beginning of what became a 12-hour-long occupation in protest of the hospital’s poor care conditions.
The Young Lords, who were united around revolutionary socialists principles, had a list of seven demands for hospital administrators, including increased minimum wage for all workers, funding for the building of a fully staffed new Lincoln Hospital and a day care center. Their takeover of the hospital grew out of a series of protests that sought to draw attention to detrimental health conditions in their poverty-stricken neighborhood. “Lincoln Hospital is only [a] butcher shop that kills patients and frustrates workers from serving these patients,” said Young Lords member Gloria Cruz. “This is because Lincoln exists under a capitalist system that only looks for profit. But even this system made an effort at scrapping this butcher shop by condemning this building 25 years ago.”
After hours of negotiations, the city gave the Young Lords no public guarantee that it would open a new Lincoln Hospital or meet their demands. So with police lined outside the building, the Young Lords donned hospital apparel, such as white coats, and slyly exited the building alongside other workers. They successfully vacated the premises, though two members, Pablo Yoruba Guzman and Louis Alvarez Perez, were soon after arrested for possession of dangerous weapons—charges that were later dismissed.
The Young Lords successfully drew attention to the material conditions of health care in the South Bronx. Tragically, their occupation was followed days later by the death of Carmen Rodriguez, who was treated negligently at Lincoln Hospital. These events are credited with helping accelerate the building of a new Lincoln Hospital six years later.
READ MORE: When the Young Lords Put Garbage on Display to Demand Change