Calling Out Bank Of America’s Race To Pollute Chicago

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Activists hold up a banner reading "Bank of America: Racing to pollute Chicago" at the Chicago marathon.Bank of America is sponsoring the Chicago marathon. Which is ironic, because Bank of America is also a leading financier of the Fisk coal-fired power plant in the Chicago community of Pilsen.

The marathon runs right past the Fisk plant. In other words, Bank of America is lending its name to an event that promotes health and fitness while also contributing to the dirty air that runners and Pilsen community members are forced to breathe.

That’s why I woke up early for the Chicago marathon this morning. I didn’t run the race — instead, I joined dozens of activists in Pilsen to use Bank of America’s sponsorship of the race as an opportunity to protest the bank’s financing of coal plants that spew toxic pollution into the air that thousands of people breathe every day.

While Bank of America is touting the economic benefits of its marathon sponsorship, its core business practices are causing a drag on Chicago’s public health and the economy. The Bank of America marathon should be about supporting physical health and Chicago’s future. Sadly, as the lead financier of Chicago’s toxic coal plants, Bank of America is doing far more to keep the city’s air polluted and asthma rates up.

We held a banner along the race route where the Fisk power plant is visible, and we joined the race while wearing gas masks to provide a stark reminder to Bank of America of its role in polluting Chicago’s air. View more photos of RAN activists at the Chicago marathon on Flickr.

Activists run in the Bank of America-sponsored Chicago marathon wearing gas masks.

RAN planned today’s action with PERRO, the Pilsen Environmental Rights and Reform Organization, to challenge Bank of America to take responsibility for its impact on people’s health. PERRO has worked for many years demanding that the City of Chicago shut down the Fisk plant and protect the air quality for their neighborhood. The Fisk plant is one of two dirty coal plants that Bank of America is bankrolling in Chicago.

“As a resident of Pilsen, I’m glad that Bank of America is endorsing exercise and sponsoring the marathon, but I am not happy that the bank is helping contaminate the air we breathe by providing funding to some of the country’s worst air polluters,” said Pilsen resident Leila Mendez, who works with PERRO. “Fisk and Crawford coal plants, just a few blocks away, need to be shut down. We need to breathe clean air.”

Our goal was to challenge Bank of America to take public health seriously enough to develop a policy that eliminates their involvement in coal-fired power plants like the Fisk plant in Chicago. Thousands of marathoners, as well as Pilsen community members, would thank them.