Matthew Kaplan Photography

Hunger Strikers Protesting General Iron in Logan Square - 3/4/21

Marking 30 days of the hunger strike protesting Chicago's environmental neglect of its southeast side, protestors gathered on Mayor Lori Lightfoot's block and demanded that she deny the General Iron corporation the permit to operate a problematic metal shredder in a largely low income neighborhood of the city's 10th Ward.

Close to a hundred demonstrators from the southeast side and throughout the city, joined with the hunger strikers to ask the mayor why she hasn't made time even to meet with a group of citizens who are putting their bodies on the line to protect to health of their community. They demanded to know how the city can justify moving a problematic recycling facility from a north side neighborhood, to a less affluent and environmentally burdened community on the south side, which they say has an asthma rate far higher than does the city as a whole.

"I grew up thinking that everyone had asthma. That it was normal." said hunger striker Yesenia Chavez, who joined the action on February 8th. Chavez's sister, afflicted with asthma, attends George Washington High School on Avenue O, a few blocks away from, and downwind of, the site to which General Iron is moving their scrap metal facility. "White and wealthy neighborhoods get billion dollar developments", Chavez proclaimed, referring to the massive Lincoln Yards project on the north side, which is turning a former industrial area on the Chicago River, from which General Iron is relocating.

"This facility poses unacceptable risks to the south side, just as it did to the northside!" Chavez went on to explain. "The department of public health has the authority to deny the permit."

Gathering at a Methodist church in north side Logan Square, across the street from a police blockade protecting Mayor Lightfoot's house, the protestors hammered nails into a coffin symbolizing the residents who have died from the toxic degradation of the Southeast Side.

"They didn't listen to us" said Peggy Salazar of the Southeast Environmental Task Force, referring to the Mayor and city officials, "We wouldn't be in this predicament if she (Mayor Lightfoot) had been sincere. Now we are desperate, and we are doing desperate things!"

Taking the coffin on their shoulders, they marched through the nearby streets, stopping to block traffic at busy intersections, and pleading with Mayor Lightfoot to heed their concerns.

"This is day 30 of the hunger strike and the mayor hasn't done a damned thing to help us!" called out George Washington High School student Trinity Colon, while rush hour traffic was snarled at the bustling corner of Diversey and Milwaukee.

Oscar Sanchez, one of the three original strikers, cried loudly, "30 days of a hunger strike and Lori Lightfoot hasn't even met with us!"

"That ain't right!" responded his supporters, kneeling on the cold pavement.

In a final gesture of their desperation to be acknowledged, the marchers laid themselves down like dead bodies, in the intersection of Kimball and Wrightwood, as close to the mayor's house as they were allowed to set foot.

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