Greenpeace Activists Arrested After Coal Smokestack Protest

UPDATED 05/25/11 1:28 a.m.

CHICAGO (CBS) — Eight Greenpeace activists climbed a smokestack at a coal plant in the Pilsen neighborhood Tuesday morning to protest the effects the plant is having on residents.

The Greenpeace activists began their climb at the Fisk plant at 1111 W. Cermak around dawn, according to spokeswoman Molly Dorozenski.

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About 3 p.m., Dorozenski said the activists left a perch on a catwalk about 450 feet above the ground and were rappelling down to paint “quit coal” in bright yellow paint on the smokestack.

“We’re going to stay up here until Edison International and the city understand we can’t continue to have old, dirty coal plants in the city of Chicago,” Kelly Mitchell, one of the protestors, said by cell phone as she sat atop the smoke stack.

“It is a little bit windy. It is dirty and dusty — not the most comfortable place I’ve hung out,” Mitchell said via cell phone Tuesday evening.

“Our top priority has been safety and being protected from the elements.”

Dorozenski said the protesters were taking action to draw attention to the health issues created by the Fisk and Crawford coal plants in the Pilsen and Little Village areas, respectively.

“They’re some of the oldest plants in the United States,” she said. She noted that nearly one in four Chicagoans live within a three-mile radius of one or both plants, and according to a report from the Clean Air Task Force, residents are at risk for heart disease, cancer and respiratory illness because of pollution from these plants.

Dorozenski noted that “the power in these plants goes out of state, the profits go to California (home of Edison International, parent company of Midwest Generation), and the pollution stays in Chicago.”

Mitchell said it was “hard for me to tell” from her perch above the city Tuesday morning if the protest had been effective, but added that after this protest, she would “keep doing what it takes until these coal plants are shut down.”

Regarding any danger inherent in climbing a 450-foot smokestack, Mitchell said, “All of us up here are experienced climbers (and) we’re looking out for each other.”

She and Dorozenski stressed that measures had been taken for the safety of the climbers. “For me personally,” Mitchell said, “those types of risks are worth taking when you look at the impact of these plants.”

The protest was planned in conjunction with a public hearing on the plants being conducted by the U.S. EPA at a downtown hotel.

Late Tuesday, the eight activists, six women and two men, were arrested at the bridge at 3900 S. Pulaski Rd. and charged with reckless conduct, according to police News Affairs Officer Ronald Gaines.

Their names were not immediately available Gaines said.

As of midnight, they hadn’t been fingerprinted and were still being processed by police. At least three of the people arrested had out of state identifications, including New York and Connecticut and Wisconsin, police said.

© Sun-Times Media Wire Chicago Sun-Times 2011. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed

  • What!?!

    So, instead of attending the public hearing on the plants being conducted by the U.S. EPA at a downtown hotel (what hotel CBS?), these clowns instead climb the smokestack. Wow, that is making quite the impact, isn’t it!

    Let me see, Pilsen isn’t the best of neighborhoods, and police had to stand on the ground and watch these fools climb and sit on top of the chimney. I’m pretty sure the police could of thought of better things to do…like chase criminals, etc..

    They should be charged with trespassing, then made to pay the salaries of the officers and emergency responders who had to watch them while they were doing this.

    • Joey DeCola

      Well, if by your standards, Pilsen isn’t the nicest of neighborhoods, then these people are helping out, by getting the police over there. The police don’t just think of things to do, they are sent to where trouble is reported .Besides, as citizens of Chicago, they are paying the salaries of those responding. Edison should be responsible for the security lapse that let them on the property in the first place. I thought the power plants were well guarded. Not.

      • What!?!

        @ Joey – I’m pretty confident that these people don’t pay enough in taxes to pay the salary of even one police officer that is having to watch them sit on top of a chimney. And it’s true that police officers don’t “think of things to do”, and they do respond to calls of trouble or for help, but they also patrol. The officers sitting there watching these people cannot patrol, and so therefore more officers from somewhere else are having to cover their patrols. Stop trying to defend people who climb chimneys to make a “statement”. The only statement that they are making is that they would rather draw attention to themselves rather than attend a meeting in a hotel in Chicago (which one CBS?) to discuss this matter.

  • Andrea

    I didn’t know about the hearing downtown, but I did see their huge sign and have started researching the issue. What they did publicized the issue much more than the hearing.

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