Activists End Their Hunger Strike, But Vow To Continue Their Protest Of Metal Shredder

Oscar Sanchez General Iron hunger strike
Oscar Sanchez participated in a one-month hunger strike over plans for a metal shredding plant on the Southeast Side of Chicago. Linda Lutton / WBEZ
Oscar Sanchez General Iron hunger strike
Oscar Sanchez participated in a one-month hunger strike over plans for a metal shredding plant on the Southeast Side of Chicago. Linda Lutton / WBEZ

Activists End Their Hunger Strike, But Vow To Continue Their Protest Of Metal Shredder

A hunger strike is now over for three people protesting a plan to open a metal shredding facility on Chicago’s Southeast Side, which has a history of industrial pollution.

Yesenia Chavez, 26, Oscar Sanchez, 23, and high school teacher Chuck Stark, 37, endured severe headaches, muscle cramps and extreme fatigue during their month-long protest against what they say is a clear case of environmental racism.

Yesenia Chavez General Iron hunger strike
“Just because the hunger strike has technically ended doesn’t mean our campaign has,” said lifelong Southeast Side resident Yesenia Chavez. Linda Lutton / WBEZ

They say they called off the protest due to a lack of response from the city. “We kind of perceived that they would let people die,” said Stark.

The hunger strikers vow to continue opposing the shredder being built by Reserve Management Group (RMG), which formed a partnership with General Iron, the operator of a controversial scrap facility on the North Side that shut down at the end of 2020 after years of complaints from neighbors there about noxious fumes and dust.

Chuck Stark General Iron hunger strike
“This area has historically been zoned for industrial use, so it’s easy to put this stuff here,” Chuck Stark said of the metal shredder. “But we’ve got to stop consolidating everything in this area.” Linda Lutton / WBEZ

The activists are determined to keep the city of Chicago’s Public Health Department from issuing a final permit needed for the new shredder to start operations.

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Linda Lutton covers Chicago neighborhoods at WBEZ. Follow her @lindalutton.