PALOS HILLS – The Facebook comments of a township trustee 18 months ago riled Chicago’s southwest suburban Muslim community into demanding that trustee resign, but she has refused to step down. Since then, representatives from Chicago’s southwest suburban Arab community have successfully stopped the township board from conducting public meetings.
When Hindu-American Hermant Patel learned about the continuous meeting disruptions, he gathered together friends that drove with him from Chicago’s northwest suburbs to support Palos Township Trustee Sharon Brannigan.
On December 10th, when Patel and friends arrived at the meeting, representatives from the Arab Community of the South West Suburbs took over, including sitting in the trustees’ board seats. Patel used his phone to video what went on, including his own reactions, “We support Sharon – we support democracy!”
“Believe me my friends, what we saw last night in Palos Hills is unforgettable,” Patel wrote on a YouTube description of his clips. “Such an insult to our democracy. The disrespect that the protesters have demonstrated is beyond belief. Their behavior is a flashing neon sign for every American citizen to become aware. There is not even a glimpse of civil discourse.”
And as the YouTube shows, while seated up in township officials’ seats, the protestors “continued screaming, clapping, and demanding the resignation of one trustee, Sharon Brannigan. They forced these elected officials to leave without meeting,” Patel wrote.
Patel writes that the “harassment, agitation, and disruption started after trustee Sharon Brannigan’s Facebook comment on how illegal and undocumented immigrants impact our own community tax dollars. She apologized for using certain words (like Muslim, Middle East etc.) and certain remarks! However, the mob activity has never stopped in last 17 months.”
Brannigan’s Facebook comment that stirred the Arab Community of the South West Suburbs’ protests said, “Why are all our schools filling with Middle East students without proper documentation?” Earlier, Brannigan agreed on Facebook with First Lady Melania Trump’s decision not to wear a head covering while visiting Saudi Arabia in 2017.
The Muslim population in Chicago’s southwest suburbs has grown exponentially over the past decade – with some estimates now as high as 25 percent of the 3rd Congressional District’s population.
An opinion writer for the protest group called for Brannigan’s resignation on the Leftist website “In These Times” in March:
The protestors continue to demand Brannigan’s resignation, and have stepped up the pressure, with protests and pickets outside her florist business and following Brannigan and her husband to her car after the November township meeting. In order to leave the parking lot safely, Brannigan called local law enforcement for help. She now feels compelled to wear a body camera in case of any further harassment.
Patel wrote about the December 10th outburst: “Unlike some other parts of the world, the protesters have every right to do a peaceful protest, they have freedom of speech, however, not by taking over elected officials’ seats, shutting down the meetings, disrupting, harassing officials, and creating mob alike hostile environment where others are afraid to attend meetings.”
Brannigan told Illinois Review she appreciates the newfound support from beyond Palos Township’s boundaries.
“There have always been some supporters who have come to the General Board meetings at Palos Township, but those supporters have been quietly and respectfully listening to the ridiculous demands and rants of the protesters,” Brannigan wrote in an email. “Residents of the township have been silently letting me know that they are there standing with me. I have never asked supporters to attend because of the volatile behavior of the protesters. The protesters (most of whom don’t even live in the township) scream, throw tantrums, call people horrible names, video everything, and try to provoke people.”
A small local newspaper wrote about the November parking lot confrontation, and Patel’s group – of Hindu and Indian descent – told Brannigan they recognized the behavior as what they’ve seen on the India/Pakistan border.
“I am grateful for the information and experiences that my supporters have shared with me,” Brannigan said. “I think I can safely say that we, in the United States, are not used to the mob/Marxist behavior and mentality that has been demonstrated by the new left Democrat Socialist party of Illinois and the United States. It is on full display here. The protesters do not adhere to our rule of law or our beloved Constitution. Not one elected official Democrat of Illinois has condemned the protesters behavior. That says a lot!”
Brannigan said she’s an “American woman grateful to all those that came before me who have fought in wars around the world protecting the Constitution and our way of life.”
“Let me be clear… I would never turn my back on that!” she said. “We can learn a lot from my supporters and their experiences from their original homelands… if only we could have the courage to listen and take a look around.”
Brannigan said she’s made herself available to meet with the protest leaders, in particular, Basaam Kawar, the leader of the Chicago chapter of Take On Hate.
“We (the entire Township Board) have been shut down at every turn. The only solution the protesters demand is my resignation and unfortunately for them, that’s not an option,” she said.
The next Palos Township Board meeting is scheduled for February 11th.