Since the pandemic’s peak, the massive General Iron facility has cast a long shadow over our Southeast Side community in Chicago. As we gear up for another school year, there’s a constant worry hanging over us—the possibility of the General Iron facility starting up just across the street from George Washington High School.
At this moment, General Iron’s legal team is working tirelessly in court, recently asking a judge to force the city to allow it to start its operations immediately, reminiscent of its activities on the North Side. Yet, there’s a crucial difference in play: The cumulative impact of this facility, alongside numerous others, weighs heavily on our community’s health and future livelihood.
If this facility starts up, it would bring nothing but disaster for us. Operations would immediately create pollution and industrial traffic. Looking back at the company’s history on the North Side, where a devastating explosion led to shutdowns and a series of fires—not to mention the continuous stream of complaints from distressed neighbors—it’s clear we could face more of the same from General Iron, compounding the already existing pollution burdens.
Standing shoulder to shoulder with our neighbors and alongside committed activists across Chicago, we’ve fought tirelessly for years. Our persistence carried us through, although it was exhausting. Together, we took a stand, and some Southeast Siders even put their health on the line and undertook a monthlong hunger strike.
Every passing day, the looming threat of the facility’s resurgence weighs on the students attending school nearby, as well as the community that put forth immense effort in this grueling battle.
Our Southeast Side community brought a federal intervention to stop this facility, but an ingrained pattern of discrimination, which has become business as usual in Chicago, is what got us to where we are today and will only continue to devastate our community. That practice must now become part of the past. Our struggle against General Iron signifies a turning point, a chapter where Chicago can redefine its path. We aspire to a future where sacrifice zones are but a distant memory—where our children can learn without the constant shadow of these massive industrial structures looming over them.