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Climate activists disrupt Logan Airport's 100th anniversary celebration to demand justice for East Boston

On Friday October 13, climate activists from Extinction Rebellion Boston (XR), Airport Impact Relief Inc., Mothers Out Front, GreenRoots, and other members of the Logan Community Clean Air Coalition disrupted the Logan Airport's 100th anniversary celebration in the newly expanded International Terminal E. As more than 500 attendees gathered, including Mayor Michelle Wu and Governor Maura Healey, the activists waved a large colorful banner printed with "Stop Polluting Eastie" and carried a 120-inch inflatable airplane reading "Terminal Illness". East Boston supporters crowded outside the airport's security entrance, chanting in English and Spanish "We shall not be moved / No, nos moverán," and "We are unstoppable, another world is possible." They sang along with live music played by the Boston Area Brigade of Activist Musicians and distributed informational flyers folded into paper airplanes to the event attendees.

East Boston activist Chris Marchi addressed the crowd saying, "We should not congratulate this airport, while it poisons environmental justice communities. We should be avowing to change. Massachusetts needs to stop excusing environmental destruction for pet projects. When will this state’s leaders finally disown claims that we need to accept environmental sacrifices for the survival of our economy?"

Before 1923, East Boston featured the massive Wood Island Park, designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, the planner of Boston's "Emerald Necklace". In 1923, the 189 acres of Wood Island Park were destroyed by Massport to build the Logan airport. The airport property rapidly expanded to 389 acres by 1934, 1,489 acres by 1949, 1,509 acres by 1965, and 1,743 acres by 1974. Due to community outrage at the egregious theft of land, Massport started "outsourcing" their expansions to other vendors, leading to "silent airport expansion," making the true size of the airport almost impossible to determine. Today, Boston Logan International Airport emits more than 35,000 pounds of pollution daily and 810,000 metric tons of greenhouse gasses per year. Despite constant pushback from the East Boston community, the airport continues to expand, destroying parks and living spaces as it grows. For example, one current proposal includes the addition of a 1.8 million gallon fuel tank.

Climate activists disrupted the Logan Airport celebration because they are concerned about the health and wellbeing of the East Boston community threatened by Massport's growth. One East Boston activist commented, "Air pollution is a terminal illness in East Boston. It is time to step up and protest the numerous and continuously increasing harms inflicted on our community. East Boston has been a vibrant immigrant hub for centuries. Like so many cities with similar histories, residents are on the receiving end of systemic environmental injustices. The burden is not bearable anymore." According to a Logan Airport Health Study1, children in East Boston are 4 times more likely to exhibit signs of asthma compared with children in other areas. Adults are twice as likely to show signs of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). The neighborhood is a "hotspot" for many different types of cancer2, suggesting environmental causes. East Boston has the lowest tree canopy coverage in the city3, due largely to Logan airport. This contributes to many urban heat islands, or hotter temperatures, on average, than most other neighborhoods in the region.

When asked why they participated in this act of non-violent civil disobedience, Mothers Out Front organizer Valinda Chan said, "When I was pregnant with my second child, I spent every day worrying about the possible health impacts of air pollution on my baby. I picked the park I would take my toddler to based on which direction the wind was blowing and the time of day, all in an effort to reduce our exposure. This hyper-awareness eventually took a toll, and I’ve thought about leaving. But I love the East Boston community. Living in an area with high pollution takes a mental, emotional, and physical toll on residents. But East Boston is our home. We can’t and don’t want to leave – and we shouldn't have to."

Demands from Extinction Rebellion Boston (XR), Airport Impact Relief Inc., Mothers Out Front, GreenRoots, and other members of the Logan Community Clean Air Coalition to Massport:

The climate activists demand that Massport stop the ongoing Logan Airport expansion, and demand that East Boston residents be financially compensated for the pollution that already damages their neighborhood. Activists insist that when creating an impact statement before building, Massport needs to explicitly consider the economic cost of healthcare for Eastie residents, and integrate the healthcare cost into the cumulative assessment of this Environmental Justice community. The activists also demand an immediate halt on construction for the 5th fuel tank at Logan airport, and the "Haul Road" for the airport that is proposed to run through East Boston.

Background on East Boston activists' community efforts against MassPort:

This action continues a long tradition of East Boston's community opposition to Logan Airport expansion, and their fight against the ongoing misuse of neighborhood land for egregiously destructive projects like Eversource's new electrical substation. For example, the #NoEastieSubstation campaign demands to move the substation's site to the airport, which is the single-largest electricity user. The substation is an insidious airport expansion planned for a plot of land where the community was promised a park.

Over the past 5 years, Mothers Out Front and Airport Impact Relief Inc. have pushed for air pollution research and advocacy projects, which have leveraged over $1 million dollars in grant activity to test and implement air quality mitigation and public education work across the region. This research revealed that idling cars at Logan Airport produce 15 million pounds of pollution per year, a figure Massport disputes.4 According to Airport Impact Relief Inc. spokesperson Chris Marchi, "We have consistently offered opportunities for collaboration with Massport, but have consistently been declined."



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