Matthew Kaplan Photography

General Iron Protest at Commissioner Arwady's Home in Lincoln Park - 12/10/21

Holding hands and blocking traffic in the middle of Racine Avenue, on a rainy December evening, four protesters from the city's southeast side were arrested at the north side home of Chicago Public Health Commissioner Alison Arwady. Dr. Arwady has a major say in whether a permit will be granted the General Iron company to operate a controversial metal shredder on the east bank of the Calumet River, in the environmentally burdened 10th ward, a site close to hundreds of homes and only a few blocks away from George Washington High School.

Having gathered in a nearby park, and marched in a steady drizzle to the Arwady house, students and teachers from that public school, joined by allies from throughout Chicago, chanted "We can't breathe!", and "Deny the permit!", while the police officers handcuffed each of the four protestors in turn, and walked them into custody. Many students broke down in tears at the sight of the four stoic activists suffering arrest in the fight for the health and safety of their community.

Looking to clean up a large parcel of industrial land for a residential redevelopment on the north side, the city has allowed General Iron, a metal recycling company, to relocate its problematic operation from the affluent Lincoln Park neighborhood, to the low income southeast side, an area of predominantly brown and black residents. At present the company is awaiting final approval of an operating permit to begin using the metal shredder, which the environmental and social justice activists fear will further increase their community's already high rate of asthma and other respiratory diseases.

Arrested were Oscar Sanchez of the Southeast Youth Alliance, prominent in the hunger strike against the shredder earlier this year; Lauren Bianchi, teacher at George Washington High School, located a few blocks from the metal shredder; Olga Bautista, executive director of the Southeast Environmental Task Force; and Rev. Matthew Zemanick, faith community organizer at SETF.

Dr. Arwady has said that a decision on the permit is expected to be made in January of 2022. Opponents of the shredder have vowed to keep up their pressure on the city until the permit is denied.

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