Chicagoans Deliver Clean Air Photo Petition to City Hall
On December 2, more than 100 volunteers with the Chicago Clean Power campaign converged on City Hall to deliver a wall of photo petitions to Mayor Rahm Emanuel. The photographs in the petition featured children, families, and other Chicagoans holding up signs saying, “I have the right to breathe clean air.” Below, ralliers at a press conference outside City Hall before the photo petition was delivered to the mayor.
The Sierra Club is one of the charter members of the Chicago Clean Power Coalition. For the past three months volunteers have been collecting hundreds of photo petitions on college campuses, at local events, and mainly while canvassing on doorsteps and street corners in the Pilsen and Bridgeport neighborhoods of Southwest Chicago.
Pilsen and the adjacent neighborhood of Little Village are home to the city's two dirtiest power plants: the Fisk and Crawford Generating Stations. The Sierra Club and its allies have waged a multi-year campaign to shutter Fisk and Crawford.
"Today we demanded that the Mayor set retirement dates for the Fisk and Crawford plants by the end of the year," says Sierra Club organizer Christine Nannicelli, below, who played a key role in collecting petition photos and putting the event together.
"It was awesome to see the coalition in action," says Verena Owen, a longtime Illinois Chapter clean leader and now volunteer co-lead of the Beyond Coal Campaign, who attended the rally. "This is what people power looks like."
Volunteers pasted 800 photos on an 8' x 20' folding wall with the title: "We all have the right to breathe clean air." At the press conference outside City Hall two Pilsen residents and a Bridgeport clergyman recalled some of the personal stories on the wall about why their communities can't wait any longer for clean air. That's Rev. Thomas R. Gaulke, Pastor at First Lutheran Church of the Trinity in Bridgeport, below in green stole.
Below, activists deliver the petition to Mayor Emanuel's office on the fifth floor of City Hall. "The wall stayed up all day in the Mayor's chief policy advisor's office and was the buzz of the fifth floor," Nannicelli says.
The Club's Illinois Chapter, Chicago Group, and Beyond Coal Campaign, have been working for the last year-and-a-half to promote the Chicago Clean Power Ordinance to address pollution issues from the Fisk and Crawford plants.
Fisk and Crawford, above and below, are two of the dirtiest coal plants in the country located in a dense urban area. Studies have shown that the two plants are linked to asthma attacks among children, heart attacks, hospitalizations, and premature deaths.
"Mobilizing the community and delivering this photo petition was a fantastic effort from start to finish," says Nannicelli. "It helped build power for the campaign, developed new leaders within our team, and sent a strong, clear message to Mayor Emanuel that people won't wait any longer for action."
Nannicelli gives special shout-outs to Greencorps field organizer Emma Greenbaum, who helped lead the charge in the Bridgeport neighbornood; Caroline Wooten, student organizer extraordinaire and chant leader; Graham "Grahambo" Jordison, who helped with several of the canvasses; "Coal Ninja" Mike Starr, who drove one of the vans from Bridgeport; chant and cheer specialist Tess Wendell; Sierra Club organizer Allison Fisher and Associate Press Secretary Claire Orphan; and last but certainly not least, volunteer powerhouse Verena Owen, who made a special guest appearance at the action.