The city of Chicago took an “unusually active” role violating the civil rights of its own citizens by pushing to relocate polluting industrial facilities from wealthy and white to predominantly Black and Latino communities, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development says. The findings — which could result in the city losing hundreds of millions of dollars in federal funding if it does not stop violating its residents’ civil rights — is a major win for the community groups that have fought the relocation plan for years, including The Southeast Environmental Task Force, People for Community Recovery and the South East Side Coalition to Ban Petcoke.

“We knew from the get-go that the city was upholding environmental racism,” Gina Ramirez, SETF board president, told Block Club Chicago. The HUD investigation was sparked by opposition to the relocation of the General Iron metal shredding and recycling facility from the white and wealthy neighborhood of Lincoln Park on the city’s North Side to a Latinx neighborhood surrounded by Black neighborhoods on the Southeast Side.

Fight for Environmental Justice

In a letter to Mayor Lori Lightfoot, HUD outlined findings that city officials pushed General Iron to close its Lincoln Park facility, cleared the way for its relocation to the Southeast Side, knew that doing so would negatively impact residents of color there, and pushed ahead anyway, ignoring their own environmental justice initiatives. The racist relocation of polluting facilities, including the LIttle Village neighborhood’s Hilco Redevelopment Partnerswarehouse project that opened last year, is a recurring theme in the Windy City.

“We want to reiterate to these companies that we don’t want to add to the cumulative burden of pollution,” Ramirez said. “We’ve been sacrifice zones for long enough. Black and Brown communities are hardest hit with pollution, so we need to rethink how urban planning is developed in Chicago [and do it] through an equity lens.” (Chicago Sun-Times, Block Club Chicago, Chicago Tribune, NBC, FOX32)