Originally published at Progress Illinois, April 23, 2014 by Anthony Burke Boylan
Grassroots groups from all over Chicago’s progressive landscape came together for a Climate Convergence on Earth Day, chanting for environmental and economic justice. The activists marched to corporations they say are the worst environmental offenders to deliver cease-and-desist orders, including Boeing Co., JPMorgan Chase Bank, and the British Petroleum oil company.
“If we do not have immediate change, we will face climate catastrophe by 2050,’’ said Jackie Spreadbury, an organizer with Global Climate Convergence Chicago. She called for people, planets and peace over profits as the rally began in front of the State of Illinois Center Tuesday, The event included speeches and protest songs like “This Land is Your Land’’ and original songs tailored to the event.
“The forces against us are strong, so fight not just these ten days, but every day,’’ she said, referring to the 10 days of action GCC has scheduled through May 1, or May Day. The May Day event is a march from the historically significant Haymarket Square to the ICE building on Congress Street to fight for immigration rights. Click through for more details and check back with Progress Illinois for coverage of Chicago’s May Day events.
The group of about 300 protesters stepped off around 6 p.m. to visit Boeing, Chase and BP corporate offices around Chicago and deliver their hand-crafted cease-and-desist orders for violations against human and environmental rights.
The first stop was Boeing where protesters chanted: “We know what this place is for, climate destruction and war!” A speaker outlined the charges against Boeing, which included the company not paying taxes and footing taxpayers with the bill for the clean up of its environmental messes. The activists also pointed out that the company profits from war and made note of the cancer-causing debris Boeing weapons reportedly leave its wake, adding that the remnants allegedly kill people for decades following military actions.
Next up was BP, a target of particular interest given the recent oil spill in Lake Michigan in Whiting, IN. “Hey BP, what do you say, how much oil did you spill today,’’ asked the activists as they marched to the comapny’s corporate office while sounding out a cadence on bucket drums.
The protesters marked the recent four-year anniversary of BP causing the largest oil spill in American history at a rig in the Gulf of Mexico. They lamented the recent lifting of a ban on government contracts with BP by Congress, and raised questions about the extent of the recent local spill and BP’s candor about its severity.
“Let’s hear it for the lovely polluters of our Lake Michigan,’’ said one activist.
The final stop on the tour of environmental offenders was Chase. Chants of “Banks got bailed out, the planet got sold out’’ and “hey Chase Bank you’d better run, we won’t stop until we’ve won’’ echoed across the building plaza.
Speakers detailed a list of environmentally damaging projets in which Chase invests by way of lending money, including devastating types of mining, tar sands, and, particularly, its involvement in a Midwestern pipeline under development similar to the Keystone XL.
Chase also destroys the urban environment with its reckless foreclosures, creating urban blight and displacing families, the activists argued. Vacant buildings due to foreclosure and abandonment contribute heavily to crime, and the city has more empty dwellings than it does homeless people, one speaker said.
“Our country goes all around the world enforcing human rights,’’ said Toussaint Losier of the Chicago Anti-Eviction Campaign. “How do we get our government in the business of enforcing human rights here?’’
After more than two hours of rallying, chanting and marching, activists headed off to Food Not Bombs in Pilsen where free food and an evening of music and spoken word was lined up to end the day on a positve note.
Sponsoring groups behind the action included: 8th Day Center for Justice; Tar Sands Free Midwest; Rising Tide Chicago; NEIS; International Socialist Organization; System Change Not Climate Change; Frack Free Illinois; AFSC; CAPOW; Young Communist League; CPUSA; LVEJO; World Can’t Wait; ICJPE; Palestine Solidarity Group, Chicago; IWW Chicago; Jewish Voice for Peace, Chicago; Eco-Justice Collabortive; Michigan Coalition Against Tar Sands; Organic Consumer Association; Anti-War Committee; the Illinois Green Party, and the Revolutionary Poets Brigade.
“We’re not just saying ‘woe is us’,” said Kim Wasserman, director of organizing for the Little Village Environmental Justice Organization (LVEJO). “We’re here to hold the offenders accountable.’’
All photos courtesy of Jeff Lucas