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Protestors try to block construction of proposed Chicago migrant tent site in Brighton Park

Chicago migrant tent camp plan has both supporters, critics at meeting
Chicago migrant tent camp plan has both supporters, critics at meeting 02:33

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Construction has resumed at the planned site of a proposed migrant tent camp in Brighton Park, after neighbors opposed to the project tried unsuccessfully to stop the heavy machinery from moving on Tuesday morning.

It comes after a heated protest last week ended with an alderwoman running for safety.

As CBS 2's Sara Machi reported, at least 30 protestors were at 38th and California with signs and American flags to oppose the migrant tent site coming to their neighborhood. Protesters temporarily blocked the driveway construction trucks use to enter the site.

Protesters said they've tried to be at the site around the clock since construction started last week. They said they feel blindsided by the plan, and are worried for their own safety. They plan to bring those concerns to a community meeting on the proposed tent camp Tuesday night.

Protests continue at proposed migrant tent site in Chicago 01:50

As protesters blocked the driveway Tuesday morning, Chicago police requested additional officers from surrounding districts to watch the entrances. Police were able to reopen the driveway so construction workers could access the site. While police were seen placing handcuffs on at least one protester, he was later released without arrest. No one was taken into custody.

"People have businesses. They have lives. They have things they have to go to, and they're sacrificing a lot to be here," said Jacquelynz Zuniga, who has been protesting at the site since Thursday.

The protest came hours before a community meeting Tuesday night, hosted by Ald. Julia Ramirez (12th) to address the issue. Representatives from the mayor's office will be at the meeting to answer neighbors' questions about the tent camp.

Tuesday's protest wasn't the first time the situation has gotten heated at the construction site. Last week, Ramirez and her aide were allegedly assaulted by protesters when she showed up to talk to neighbors.

Police said Ramirez and her aide were "battered" during the protest rally. Ramirez was not hurt, but her aide was taken to the hospital in good condition. 

Ramirez released a statement saying constituents had contacted her asking her to attend the rally to hear protesters' concerns, but after she spoke to a few people at the rally, a group of protesters began attacking her and her aide.

Chicago alderwoman, residents to hold meetings on proposed migrant tent site 02:47

"I wanted to engage directly with my community to address misinformation being spread about my involvement in the plan, and how we should move forward as a community. After having a few conversations, it became clear that most of the protesters did not want to engage in a peaceful dialogue with me. It was a truly disappointing experience," she wrote. 

Neighbors have said they are upset by a lack of transparency about the project, and they felt blindsided when construction began.

Ald. Ramirez has said Mayor Brandon Johnson did not consult with her about plans for a tent camp in Brighton Park, and she did not suggest any sites in her ward for such a shelter. Ramirez sat down with CBS 2 News on Monday to outline her goals for Tuesday's community meeting.

"I don't believe the city and the administration should be making those decisions alone, and that's why I want to make sure as people are being heard tomorrow, that I provide a different space in which we're thinking on a hyper-local level on what makes sense for Brighton Park residents," she said. 

During the meeting at Thomas Kelly High School, city representatives laid out plans for the 10-acre land. The migrant tent camp would go up only if the land, water and sewer systems were found suitable for construction.

If approved, the tent camp will house only migrant families, 500 to start and up to 2,000 people later. It would include housing, amenities, 24-hour unarmed security, and an 11 p.m. curfew.

Still, the plan drew both support and criticism.

"It's not an either or," said one attendee. "We can welcome our neighbors and we can have a thriving, healthy community."

Another speaker said, "Chicago winters are brutal. Putting migrants in such conditions is nothing short of inhumane.'

The city is still assessing the land. If approved, it's unclear when it would open.

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