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Brannigan, protestors unmoved one year later

 

Rallying outside Palos Township headquarters Monday evening, people call for the resignation of Trustee Sharon Brannigan during the monthly board meeting. At least 80 people were on hand to continue to pressure her and her fellow board members.

Photo by Anthony Caciopo

 

By Anthony Caciopo

Regional News Editor

 

It’s been a year-long standoff, one month at a time, at an unassuming office building in Palos Hills where an elected official is under pressure to resign because of comments she made about Muslims and Middle Eastern people.

“Hey-hey, ho-ho, Sharon Brannigan’s got to go!” was one of many rallying cries heard Monday at the monthly Board of Trustees meeting—the same rallying cry heard last month and the month before that, all the way back to July 2017.

“Today marks one year where we have been protesting and exercising our constitutional rights, as citizens of the United States, against racist remarks of a woman who not only represents this township’s constituency but also is planning on increasing her authority by running for Congress,” said a woman who identified herself as Linda with Arab American Family Services.

Citing U.S. Census statistics she claimed documented the growth of the local Muslim population, Linda addressed Brannigan and other board members during the public commentary portion of the meeting.

“The Chicago area is home to one of the largest Palestinian communities in the country,” Linda said. “Unfortunately for you, it would be impossible for you to get rid of us and that is why we keep showing up here and will continue to show up here.”

The small meeting room, which holds 40 seats for the public, was again packed on Monday. Just as many additional people stood in the vestibule and outside the building at 10802 S. Roberts Rd., Palos Hills.

More than 100 people showed up for the first protest on July 10, 2017 and attendance hasn’t fluctuated much in all the subsequent months.

Brannigan is under fire for postings she made on social media about Muslims and Middle Eastern people.

Protestors at Monday’s meeting for the first time carried placards printed with screen shots of her social media pages, showing now-deleted messages in which she asks, “Why are all our schools filling with Middle East students without proper documentation?”

Other postings that have been deemed offensive include one on

Facebook in which Brannigan describes watching President Trump and family on a trip to the Middle East in May 2017.

“Am particularly proud that our women are not wearing headscarves. We American women are being represented with dignity!” she wrote.

Trustee Brannigan last year issued a clarification, then an apology, both of which were published in their entity in The Regional News. However, neither has been accepted bypeople who seek her removal from the board. Her apology has been almost universally dismissed as insincere or too-little, too-late by her opponents.

But despite the pressure on her and the pressure on the board of trustees to, in turn, pressure her to resign, Branningan has told The Regional on more than one occasion she isn’t going anywhere.

“As you can see, almost all is the same old comments about the same old posts,” she wrote in an email Tuesday morning. “I do think that a few of the comments by the protesters however are now becoming more introspective and perhaps that is a good thing for all of us and communication can begin. Again, I am hopeful that the law will be recognized and respected and we can move on.”

But any introspection detected amid the public commentary Monday night was in short supply to the sentiments that have dominated the meeting process since last year.

“You should be ashamed of yourself, and you should leave,” said one of about a dozen people clearly opposed to her who spoke publically at the meeting.

“Isn’t it about time you all take a stand?” said Basem Kawar to the entire board. Kawar is the national coordinator of the National Network of Arab American Communities.

“Isn’t it about time you all join us in our demand for her resignation? She’s bringing this entire board down. This is a shame upon this board.”

Palos Township covers all or parts of Palos Heights, Palos Hills, Palos Park, Orland Park, Willow Springs, Worth, Bridgeview and Hickory Hills. The board is comprised of four trustees, including Brannigan, as well as the township supervisor, assessor, highway commissioner and clerk. All positions are elected.

Township Supervisor Colleen Schumann has repeatedly informed the protestors that she, nor anyone else, has the power to force Brannigan from a position to which the public elected her.

Schumann has also on several occasions officially distanced the board from the thoughts and language Brannigan used in her controversial social media posts.

But at Monday’s meeting, at least a few people were not in opposition to the trustee.

Outside the building, before the meeting room doors were opened, a man and a woman who preferred to not be identified spoke briefly to The Regional.

“Here to support Sharon Brannigan, that’s all,” said the woman.

 

“She’s a good person,” said the man. When asked to explain what he meant, he claimed he was being challenged by the question.

 

“I don’t want to talk to you no more,” he said, and ended the interaction.

 

John T. took to the microphone to say “I don’t know what’s in your heart. I want to remind everyone that we all have had moments.

 

“I do believe there’s been a lot of name-calling and ridicule directed at you,” he said, suggesting that perhaps a larger agenda is at work, an agenda in which politics is playing a role.

 

“Over the last year, since I’ve been coming to these meetings, the majority of people who have spoken against you have used ridicule to express their feelings,” he said.

 

“When I’ve spoken to some of the people in this room, one-on-one, they seem to be reasonable and willing to listen, which suggests to me there’s something bigger going on that does not involve Sharon Brannigan.”

 

John T. said more leaders have to get involved.

 

We need a town-hall meeting, made up of our political leaders—not just the township trustees, but our mayors, aldermen, school board members, even Congressman Lipinski,” he said. “A forum all of us can get answers to our questions from our elected officials.

 

Brannigan ran unsuccessfully against Lipinski in 2014. Her seat as trustee comes up for election in 2021.

 

“As far as Sharon Brannigan is concerned,” said John T., “stop the ridicule. “If you like candidate Brannigan, vote yes. If you don’t, vote for someone else,” he said.

 

The next General Meeting of the Palos Township Board will be held at 7 p.m. Monday, Aug. 13 at 10802 S. Roberts Rd., Palos Hills.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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