1-Month Hunger Strike: Chicago Activists Fight Metal Scrapper Relocation Into Black and Latinx Neighborhood


Scrap metal is loaded into a shredder at a metal recycling facility on July 17, 2008 in Chicago, Illinois. Scott Olson / Getty Images

Hunger strikers in Chicago are fighting the relocation of a metal shredding facility from a white North Side neighborhood to a predominantly Black and Latinx community on the Southeast Side already plagued by numerous polluting industries.

On Thursday the three original hunger strikers – Oscar Sanchez, Breanna Bertacchi and Chuck Stark – will complete their fourth week without food. “It is immoral, it is discriminatory and we cannot allow [this plant to operate] in a pandemic when we can prevent it,” Byron Sigcho-Lopez, the 25th ward alderman who has joined the hunger strike for “as long as it’s needed,” told The Guardian.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) suspended its environmental justice investigation into whether Illinois discriminated against the predominantly Black and Latinx Southeast Side community after the Illinois EPA began “informal resolution agreement discussions,” Block Club Chicago reported. Last month, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot also sought guidance from federal regulators and appears to be hoping the Biden administration will make the call over whether the scrap yard can be moved to the Southeast Side, according to the Chicago Tribune.

As reported by the Chicago Tribune:

Lightfoot has so far declined to meet the strikers’ key demand. But by reaching out to federal regulators for guidance this week, the mayor for the first time raised the possibility that Reserve Management Group won’t be allowed to operate its new facility along the Calumet River at 116th Street.

If the Biden EPA steps in and blocks the state permit, the Lightfoot administration would be spared from making a decision about a final city permit RMG needs before it can start shredding scrap metal on the Southeast Side.

RMG’s opponents contend that locating more heavy industry in an already polluted, majority Latino and Black neighborhood is an immoral — if not illegal — example of environmental racism, a scourge both Biden and Lightfoot as candidates promised to aggressively confront.

For a deeper dive:

Block Club Chicago, The Guardian, Grist

For more climate change and clean energy news, you can follow Climate Nexus on Twitter and Facebook, sign up for daily Hot News, and visit their news site, Nexus Media News.

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter