Protesters Disrupt Meeting, Call For Palos Trustee To Quit Over ‘Racist’ Comments
Updated Dec. 13 at 12:25 P.M.
About 60 protesters from various Arab-American and anti-hate groups disrupted a south suburban Palos Township government meeting Monday night and again called for embattled trustee Sharon Brannigan to resign over what they said are racist comments made on social media.
The meeting lasted less than 10 minutes, with chants from protesters drowning out the evening’s proceedings.
Township government usually draws little attention but has become a flashpoint in Palos in the last six months as activists have persisted in their demands for Brannigan to step down. Many point to a social media post written last summer by the trustee and 2014 Republican candidate for Congress: “What’s Palos doing? Why are all our schools filling with Middle East students without proper documentation.”
Palos Township, which includes all or parts of Bridgeview, Hickory Hills, Orland Park, Palos Heights, Palos Hills, Palos Park, Willow Springs, and Worth, has one of the largest populations of Arab-Americans in the metro area.
At Monday’s meeting, as soon as the crowd finished reciting the pledge of allegiance, the room erupted in chants of, “Hey, hey! Ho, ho! Sharon Brannigan has got to go!”
Trustees continued with township government business despite the protesters loud chanting just feet away. They strained to hear each other, but even their microphones did not help. Nothing could be heard by the public in the room.
As soon as the chants began, Brannigan took out her cell phone and apparently dialed the police, who arrived quickly and escorted at least one of the protesters leading the chants out a back entrance.
Palos Hills police say they were responding to a call about a disturbance and merely asked people to step outside in order to hear them better.
The meeting was adjourned just seven minutes after it began, with protesters shouting, “Racists, go home!” as Brannigan and the other trustees filed out of the board chambers.
“Wonderful work!” Arab American Action Network director Hatem Abudayyeh told the crowd after the meeting had adjourned. “No business as usual in Palos Township!”
“We’re going to continue to do this until she decides she is going to resign!”
At a September Township meeting, Brannigan apologized “to anyone who felt offense” from her words, saying she didn’t mean for her comments to be anti-Arab or anti-Muslim.
A handful of Brannigan supporters also attended Monday’s meeting; they held up homemade signs saying “I support Sharon.” They were also shouted down by protesters with chants of, “Racists, go home!”
Editor's Note: A photograph on this story was removed. The photograph and the caption underneath it suggested police and protesters had “faced off” at the meeting. Police and protesters say there was no conflict with police. They say the protester and police officer pictured were shouting only because it was difficult to hear.
WBEZ also added information from Palos Hills police explaining why a lead protester was asked to accompany police out a back entrance and updated the audio story.
Linda Lutton covers education for WBEZ. Follow her @WBEZeducation.