Matthew Kaplan Photography

Hunger Strikers at Chicago City Hall Protest General Iron's Metal Shredder - 2/23/21

A determined group of hunger strikers, and their allies, met at dusk today outside of City Hall, for a candlelight vigil to protest the relocation of the General Iron metal shredding facility from the politically powerful Lincoln Park neighborhood to the city's less affluent, and environmentally challenged, southeast side.  

Through marches and demonstrations, community residents have been publicy opposing the recycling operation for months, expressing concerns over allowing the scrapping facility to operate in close proximity to their homes and schools. Feeling that their voices have been ignored by the city government, three neighborhood activists began a hunger strike on February 4th. A number of others have now joined the effort.

"I'm doing this to amplify the voices of the unheard" said Audrey Harding from United Neighbors of the 10th Ward, now in the 10th day of her hunger strike. "Our community matters" she continued, "If we don't fight, no one will!".

Oscar Sanchez of the Southeast Youth Alliance, in his 20th day without food, cried out "We must say no to profits over people!"

Former Illinois governor Pat Quinn, almost invisible in the background at the rally holding a "Unity in Struggle" banner, stepped forward to pledge his support. "The southeast side has been a dumping ground for too long!" he exclaimed.

25th ward alderman Byron Sigcho Lopez from the Pilsen community, addressed the crowd in English and in Spanish vowing to join the hunger strike from this day forward. Alderman Sue Garza from the 10th ward, where the problematic metal recycling plant is slated to be located, was not at the rally. Nor was Mayor Lori Lightfoot, to whom was addressed many shouts of "Deny the permit!".

Reverend Dr. Beth Brown, from the Lincoln Park Presbyterian Church, appeared genuinely anguished as she confessed to the crowd, "we fought to get General Iron out of our neighborhood, but not to move them to the southeast side!" Reverand Brown then asked the group to repeat after her, "If it's not good enough for Lincon Park, it's not good enough for the southeast side!"

"The city doesn't want to talk about the impact of Genral Iron on the community", said Breanna Bertacchi, also of United Neighbors of the 10th Ward, and now on the 20th day of her hunger strike. "This community deserves better!"

Crystal Vance, from Bridges//Puentes Justice Collective of the Southeast, finished the demonstration with a warning to the mayor that "This is on you Lori Lightfoot! ... we are here united and we will continue to stike until the permit is denied!"

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