Wednesday, May 5

Chicago Activists End Hunger Strike Against Recycling Plant, But Vow to “Keep Fighting” | Chicago

On the 30th and final day of his hunger strike, activists on the southeast side of Chicago held a vigil.

Lamenting the health of hunger strikers who have been without food for a month, protesters dressed in funeral garb carried a fake casket Thursday through Logan Square, the north side neighborhood where Mayor Lori Lightfoot lives. Organizers and residents of the Southeast Side are demanding that the city stop a non-operating metal crusher in a Latino neighborhood already burdened by pollution.

“To continue, we will give our body nutrients. We are going to eat again and we are going to continue the fight. But we are not going to do it alone, ”said Yesenia Chávez, organizer for Vecinos Unidos del Distrito 10.

Chávez is one of eight others who joined the hunger strike after February 4, when three organizers announced that they would do everything possible to stop Southside Recycling from running. Chávez said he experienced severe weight loss, headaches, muscle aches and anxiety attacks during his 25 days without eating solid foods.

Lightfoot has come under fire for helping the owners of General Iron, a controversial metal junkyard in a prosperous white neighborhood, shut down the facility last year, then allowing the company to build a new metal recycling plant in a black color. and brown low-income community across town. The mayor wrote a letter on February 23 acknowledging the hunger strike and environmental racism facing the East Side neighborhood, but did not go so far as to deny the final permit necessary for Southside Recycling to operate. The hunger strikers called the letter “insulting” on their own. statement.

Thursday’s rally drew more than 200 people from across the city. It started in a church outside the Lightfoot block, which was heavily blocked by the police, and meandered through the streets of Logan Square. The protesters wore “Stop General Iron” masks (referring to the metal shredder that closed in December) and carried signs that read “We deserve clean air!” and “Ecological devastation is immoral.” At one point, they stopped traffic at a busy intersection.

Chicago activists wore masks and carried signs that read
Chicago activists wore masks and carried signs that read “Stop General Iron,” in reference to the metal shredder on the North Side that closed last year. Photograph: Dominic Gwinn / ZUMA Wire / REX / Shutterstock

Many of the speakers were students from George Washington High School, located half a mile from the proposed facility. “There is no reason you should go hungry for a week to get Lori’s attention,” said Gregory Miller, a 15-year-old student organizer.

The defunct General Iron site was riddled with controversy. Junkyard broken The US Environmental Protection Agency standards in 2018, 2012 and 2006, and was widely considered by neighbors as a nuisance. “There was an almost constant roar of massive machinery, and our facilities manager had to replace the external air filters on a weekly basis,” said a spokesman for PAWS Chicago, a nearby animal shelter.

the particular matter That often shuns these kinds of businesses can lead to serious heart and lung conditions, according to Dr. Susan Buchanan, a professor of public health at the University of Illinois-Chicago. Reserve Management Group (RMG), the metals recycling company that owns General Iron and Southside Recycling, insists that pollution controls at the new site will be enough to keep residents safe. “They have made us a target, but we are not the enemy,” wrote Steve Joseph, CEO of RMG, in a opinion piece.

The southeast side of Chicago has a long history of environmental pollution. The steel mills that once attracted immigrants to the neighborhood with well-paying jobs are now gone, as manufacturing jobs moved abroad in the 1980s. But the area is still home to toxic industries that million pounds of heavy metals in the air each year.

Oscar Sanchez lost about £ 20 for participating in the hunger strike during the 30 days. His grandmother, a recent widow who has suffered from COVID-19, called him before the rally. “It is connected to an air tank, [because] the only air he can breathe is not the one on the southeast side. “

But she was more worried about her grandson, according to Sánchez. “She said, ‘I miss your grandfather. Don’t make me miss you too. ‘

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