8 Protesters Arrested, Pilsen Coal Plant Smokestack Climbers Come Down, in Custody

 by Sun-Times Media Wire

May 25, 2011

Chicago - A Greenpeace protest against two city coal plants came to an end Wednesday morning when a group of eight protestors -- who had been perched high above the city on a smokestack since Tuesday morning -- came down and were taken into police custody.

Eight other activists who rappelled under a Southwest Side bridge to prevent a coal barge from passing were arrested and charged late Tuesday.

The first group of anti-coal activists began climbing a smokestack at the Fisk power plant at 1111 W. Cermak Rd. about dawn Tuesday, spokeswoman Molly Dorozenski said.

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

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

Mitchell said the protesters brought warm weather gear, snack bars and water with them, and vow to stay atop the smokestack “until Edison International and the city understand we can't continue to have old, dirty coal plants in the city of Chicago.”

They also had prepared a system for using the washroom, but Mitchell wouldn’t give specifics. “It’s a little different than what it might be in your day to day life,” she said.

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.

While the protesters were painting, eight others -- later identified by police as the six women and two men arrested -- rappelled from the Pulaski Street Bridge and dangled above the Chicago River to prevent a coal barge from passing, Dorozenski said.

Those who attempted to stop the barge -- 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.

All eight were charged with reckless conduct and performing an aerial exhibition without a net, according to police. The charges are misdemeanors.

Charged are: Jeanne Kirshon, 23, of Rockville, Md.; Kaitlin Finneran, 24, of Norwalk, Conn.; Daniel Strandquist, 28, of New York City; Shea Schachameyer, 27, of Milwaukee; Harmony Lambert, 22, of Shasta, Calif.; Carolyn Auwaerter, 25, of Melbourn, Pa.; Laila Williams, 24, of Rockville, Mass.; and Michael Alilionis, 21, of Floral Park, New York, police said.

These suspects had been wearing harnesses and helmets during their demonstration, the lieutenant said.

They were released early Wednesday. They are scheduled to appear in Misdemeanor Court, (Br. 43) on July 1, police said.

As the rains came down Wednesday morning, so did the group of protestors who had been on the smokestack since Tuesday morning, police said. As of about 9:45 a.m. police did not have details on the charges they would face.

Both protests were set to coincide with a U.S. EPA public hearing on increased pollution controls from coal-burning plants.

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.

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