As Mayor Mattie Parker gave her annual State of the City address inside the Fort Worth Convention Center yesterday morning, around a dozen people with signs chanted and marched outside in protest.
One large banner read, “Which Side Are You On, Mayor Parker?”
At issue are the zoning practices in Echo Heights. City leaders designated the heavily Black southeast community as an Industrial Growth Center in 2000, a classification that area residents allege has given them major health problems.
Letitia Wilbourn, who has lived in Echo Heights since 1985, believes industrial businesses began popping up near her home in the late 1990s.
“After that, we started noticing people in the community getting sick,” she said, referring to observations that have not been corroborated via an official study. “We have seen residents develop high rates of cancers, kidney issues, and miscarriages.”
Nearby, community organizer Teena James used a microphone to describe the historic lack of support from city leaders.
“We’ve gone to city council several times since 1995 trying to prevent them from putting so many industrial and commercial businesses in our community,” she said. “Now, we have 208 industrial and commercial businesses in Echo Heights. We have asked and begged the city for air monitors and more lights.”
After several protesters made public statements about the health problems in Echo Heights and alleged neglect by city leaders, the group marched near the south end of the convention center as guests entered and left the facility for the mayor’s speech. The justice-minded activists pledged to keep public pressure on Parker and other public leaders until the pollution is acknowledged, properly measured, and properly addressed by city officials.