On Monday, September 11th, the national Campaign to TAKE ON HATE, along with the AAAN and other local Chicagoland partners, mobilized hundreds of community members for the third month in a row, to rally and protest racist Palos Township trustee Sharon Brannigan's social media post attacking
Arabs and Muslims
in the southwest suburbs, and most recently,
Middle Eastern students
After a short rally outside, residents packed the Board of Trustees meeting to hear Scott Smith, board member of Southwest Side Chicago Diversity Collaborative, and
, immigration attorney and prominent community activist, give powerful testimonies on behalf of the TAKE ON HATE-led coalition. They both challenged the board to terminate Brannigan, raising concerns about her violations of the township's constitution and by-laws.
The meeting proceeded with another hour of Arab and non-Arab community members criticizing Brannigan's racism and the board's complicity for not censuring her or demanding that she resign. When a non-resident--who had been standing across the street from the rally next to homemade signs that read, "ISIS OUT OF PALOS" and "ILLEGAL ALIEN INVADERS OUT OF OUR SCHOOLS"--tried to spew his own racism, he was immediately shouted down by many of the meeting attendees, who chanted "Racists Go Home!" as he was forced to leave with a couple of his racist buddies in tow.
"Outside of the Movement for Black Lives-led fight for police accountability, this is the issue of our generation in the U.S.," said
Nesreen Hasan of the Arab American Action Network, one of the coalition's leading institutions. "Brannigan is a white supremacist, and we are not going to let the racists she is attracting to these meetings think that they are free to be ugly and hateful. We support the shutting down of racists and white supremacists in Boston, Oakland, Chicago, and everywhere else, including Palos Hills. Hate and violence is not free speech!"
After the racist was shut down, Township Supervisor Colleen Schumann
adjourned the meeting, in a move to limit the outrage. Elected officials like Brannigan and Trump embolden this racism and hate, including the deadly examples we have seen in Charlottesville and other places. Since last year's presidential election, Black, Latinx, Asian, Arab, Muslim, and many other marginalized communities across the country have seen massive escalations in attacks against them.
Last month, after the previous Board of Trustees meeting was cancelled due to its failure to accommodate the large crowd anticipated to attend,
Schumann requested that community organizers notify her about the need for a larger meeting space.
This was done by TAKE ON HATE as requested, but Schumann once again failed to secure a larger space, instead announcing three days before the meeting that it would be held in the township's parking lot, sparking further outrage within the community. Mass phone calls forced Schumann to scrap that idea and return the meeting to the same 42-person room that was still too small.
When challenged on her decisions, Schumann contended that the addition of a loudspeaker outside the doors put the township in compliance with the Illinois Open Meetings Act, but the coalition disagreed and continues to work with the Illinois Attorney General's office to explore possible legal action.
Since Brannigan refuses to resign, and since none of the other trustees will take a stand against her racism and hate,
the coalition is asking all community members and supporters to continuously call the Palos Township office at 708.598.4418 and demand Brannigan's immediate resignation
. The leadership of the township is refusing to address the issue
in a serious and timely manner, and this silence only points to complicity with and approval of Brannigan's racist comments.
So keep calling and don't allow business as usual!
Follow the action on Twitter, using #ResignBrannigan, #TakeOnHate, and #TakeOnHateChi.
Organized by The Campaign to TAKE ON HATE, AMVOTE PAC, Arab American Action Network, Arab American Democratic Club, Arab American Family Services, Color Of Change, Kiswani Law, P.C., Law Offices of Reema Odeh, and other community members and activists.
See media coverage of the protest and meeting below:
Chicago Tribune - Daily Southtown
The Targeted 'Other': Shared Experience of Japanese and Arab Americans