Story at a glance

  • A recycling plant with a history of environmental violations is moving to a low-income, minority neighborhood in Chicago.
  • Community activists are on a hunger strike, demanding the city deny the permit.
  • The city has not met their demands, but Mayor Lori Lightfoot has sent a letter to the EPA asking for a federal investigation.

Chicago community organizers are one month into a hunger strike against a century-old metal scrapyard moving from a wealthier, whiter neighborhood, to their own low-income, mostly Latino neighborhood. 

After the Reserve Management Group (RMG) announced the closure of General Irons, a scrapyard with a history of environmental violations, the community became concerned with plans for a new metal recycling plant in southeast Chicago that would use some of the same equipment. Several community advocates filed a housing discrimination complaint last October with the Department of Housing and Urban Development alleging "the City is entirely aware that the communities it is relocating industrial actors to already experience significant, adverse and disproportionate environmental burdens." 


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"My community should not be denied the rights given to people in Lincoln Park because we are black and brown or because we are in the lowest income bracket," said Jade Mazon, a resident in her third week of the hunger strike, on Twitter. "I have joined with my brothers and sisters staging a hunger strike to stop General Iron's relocation to our community. I am willing to risk my life for my community - our backs are already backed up against the wall. WE DO NOT HAVE A CHOICE."


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Strikers were encouraged by a letter from the city to the Environmental Protection Agency last month inquiring about a federal investigation into the permit and signaling that public health officials were prepared to suspend the process. The letter emphasized "Mayor Lightfoot's commitment to confronting the city's most pressing environmental challenges" as well as "the concentrated impact of air pollution in low-income communities," both priorities of the Biden administration.  

But Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot has not acquiesced to their immediate demands, which include denying RMG's permit application, which is still under review, and a moratorium on all permits until the community can reach herd immunity, saying "CDPH has not recommended the necessity of a full moratorium."

“We regret that individuals are choosing to engage in activity that we believe is unwarranted by the circumstances, and we strongly urge them not to put their health at risk or encourage others to do so," said company spokesperson Randall Samborn in a statement emailed to the Chicago Tribune


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Published on Mar 03, 2021