Militant Journalism

Protesters in Chicago challenge Bridge Industrial’s racist environmental attack on workers in Tacoma, Wa.

A protest was held at Federal Plaza in Chicago on April 21 to celebrate Earth Day by opposing a planned warehouse set to be built by Bridge Industrial in the Black and Brown community of South Tacoma in Tacoma, Washington. Bridge Industrial is a Chicago-based company.

The warehouse would replace the equivalent of over 47 football fields of trees and green space in the community with a “mega warehouse” which would bring massive pollution, traffic and danger, including up to 10,000 more truck and other vehicle trips per day. This is only a continuation of the persistent environmental racism of Bridge Industrial and of the U.S. system more broadly. 

The event was sponsored by 16 organizations from Tacoma and Chicago. Its lead organizer was Gemini Gnull, the coordinating director for the Climate Alliance of the South Sound.

“Bridge Industrial has done a bunch of terrible projects here and in Illinois more broadly,” Gnull told Liberation News. “So the people of Chicago and the people of Tacoma have a vested interest in standing together to fight our common enemy, which is greedy corporations like Bridge Industrial.” 

Gnull was a Tacoma resident who visited Chicago to do activist work in the city, as were many others in attendance. They were joined by various Chicago organizers, including Rabbi Michael Ben Yosef of Chicago Activist Coalition for Justice. 

Rabbi Michael Ben Yosef of Chicago Activist Coalition for Justice addresses the gathered protesters. Liberation photo

“This is national Earth Day,” Ben Yosef told Liberation News. “And the call to action is to take time out of our day to focus on the planet and to reflect on what this planet means to us. If we don’t have Earth, then we don’t have life.”

Ben Yosef declared in his speech during the protest that he did not hesitate to endorse the event. He said it called to mind instances of environmental racism by the state in the form of inhumane conditions of prisons in Illinois. 

He thought of Statesville Correctional Center in Joliet, Illinois, which is a major prison in the Chicago suburbs which has lacked clean drinking water for inmates. Cook County Jail, which is the jail of the second-largest county in the United States by population and includes Chicago, was intentionally prevented by Sheriff Tom Dart from accessing supplies like hand sanitizer and masks during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“That is a death trap,” Ben Yosef told Liberation News. “And that calls me to be in solidarity with these organizers here.” 

Gemini Gnull of the Climate Alliance for the South Sound leads the crowd as they sing “Solidarity Forever.” Liberation photo

At one point during the event, protesters called Bridge Industrial’s headquarters on their phones all at once to demand the cancellation of the warehouse. At another, they performed a song written by Gnull about the warehouse whose chorus declared, “We will not let this warehouse pass / Power to the working class.” 

“These warehouses are built in working class communities by working class people, and they hurt working class people,” said Gnull. “If we are going to stand up against these racist, dangerous, harmful projects, we are going to need all the people who make society work, make all of this stuff and make everything run, and that’s the working class.” 

She also closed the demonstration with a sing-along rendition of “Solidarity Forever,” an appropriate choice from organizers who saw attacks on the working classes of two different cities, encompassing two disparate issue-based movements, and answered with united action. 

Feature photo: Protesters in Chicago chant, “Global warming is a war / Of the rich upon the poor / There is no room for debate / Organize and demonstrate!” Liberation photo

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