Protesters call for closing coal plants
October 7, 2011
Protesters from several community groups gathered Sept. 24 to call for two coal-fired generating plants in the community to be shut down.

By Miriam Y. Cintrón

A crowd gathered atDvorak Park in Pilsen Sept. 24 to call for the closure of Chicago’s coal-fired power plants: Fisk Generating Station, 1111 W. Cermak Rd.—located directly across from the park—and Crawford Generating Station, located at 3501 S. Pulaski Rd. in Little Village. Owned by Midwest Generation, the plants have been the focus of local opposition for years over environmental and health concerns related to the plants’ emissions.

The event, to which many participants biked after a rally in Daley Plaza, coincided with International Day of Climate Action efforts around the world aimed at bringing attention to solutions to the climate crisis.

Speaking at Dvorak Park, Greenpeace International Executive Director Kumi Naidoo explained that he did not go to a media event in New York and opted to join the protesters in Chicago “because I believe that the fights you are engaging here—not if we win, but when we win it—will have global consequences,” he told the crowd, members of which carried signs that read, “Climate change is real,” “Clean coal is a dirty lie,” and “Midwest Generation say goodbye.”

Naidoo called on political leaders to stop putting corporate profits before people, as well as to ensure democracy by listening to communities’ desire for environmental and social justice. “For every member of Congress, the fossil fuel industry—oil, coal, and gas—have three dedicated lobbyists and thousands and thousands and thousands of dollars to actually ensure that we cannot get the legislation that will allow us to move away from our addiction to fossil fuels, and to actually dream and build a new green energy future for our children and grandchildren,” he said. “Now the interesting thing I find about the United States is that there are a lot of very powerful politicians that evoke religion but completely undermine all the things that God has created,” he added, explaining that most current forms of energy involve destroying natural resources such as oceans, mountains, and rivers in order to get to them. “Rather than looking down, we should have been looking up to see that God gave us solar and wind and so on to actually meet our energy needs,” he said. Naidoo also pointed to clean power as a potential source of new job creation. Naidoo also underlined the importance of community organizing in the effort to get the plants shut down for good and to achieve environmental justice in the U.S. and around theworld. “To win this fight, we are never going to have as much money as the oil, coal, and gas companies have,” he said.

“What we need to be able to counteract that is to ensure that we are as united as possible, that we broaden our base, and that we try to bring new constituencies into the struggle.”

He acknowledged that will never be easy. “These struggles are marathons and not sprints,” he explained. “And the biggest contribution that any one of us can make is to have a sense of perseverance, a sense of stamina, and to keep pushing until victory is secured because that is the biggest contribution that any one of us can make.” Other speakers from the Pilsen Environmental Rights and Reform Organization (PERRO), the Pilsen Alliance, and the Little Village Environmental Organization (LVEJO) reiterated their desire for the plants to be shut down completely, rather than upgraded with additional pollution controls.

“Clean coal is a complete oxymoron,” said Selene Gonzalez of LVEJO. “We don’t want that.” Rosalie Mancera, a teacher and member of the Pilsen Alliance, cited Pilsen’s history of struggling for social justice and highlighted that studies have drawn a connection between the respiratory and other health effects suffered by residents in the area to the plants’ emissions.

Mancera also called the issue of the coal plants remaining in Pilsen and Little Village a case of environmental racism. For more information, visit www.pilsenperro.org, www.thepilsenalliance.org, www.lvejo.org, or www.greenpeace.org.