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Take-On-Hate Rally: a great start to an ongoing effort!

Take-On-Hate Rally: a great start to an ongoing effort!

With over 300 activists and community members rallying outside the Palos Township office and a meeting room at over-capacity, this Monday’s Take on Hate rally had an inspiring turnout. Now, the Palos community is bracing itself for a second rally at the next Palos township meeting to continue putting pressure on Brannigan to resign.

Organized by the Take on Hate campaign in partnership with several other organizations including AAFS , this rally aimed to hold Trustee Sharon Brannigan accountable for her anti-Muslim remarks on both her personal and official township media accounts. The rally pushed for Brannigan’s resignation stating that her hate-filled statements were not befitting of an elected official who represents the people of her diverse community and made her ill-suited for the role.

Since as early as 4:00 that evening, concerned residents from all backgrounds gathered to express their disappointment with the Palos township’s silence over Brannigan’s comments.

“We managed to turn out 300 community members, residents and supporters and pack the meeting room up to the point that Palos Township Board nearly cancelled the meeting, a moment that the Palos Township Board has never seen or expected,” says Bassem Kawar, advocacy specialist at NNAAC and organizer for the Take on Hate campaign.

As the board meeting began, Brannigan defended her social media statements, invoking her First Amendment right to free speech. She said her comments were aimed at bringing awareness to the community’s growing tax burden and the nation’s lack of regulation over immigrants.

The Township hearing began at 7:00 and dozens of attendees, ranging from 10 years old to 75 years old, spoke to their frustration.

“We will not tolerate this in Palos Township. We are hardworking constituents and we are visible,” co-founder of AAFS, Nareman Taha, said at the township hearing. “You talked about Arabs and Muslims not integrating but as a representative of us, are you integrated? Do you know your Arab or Muslim neighbors?”

The stories shared were deeply personal as teenagers, mothers, students, and professionals alike described times they have been targeted for their color or faith and their concern that Brannigan’s comments will perpetuate similar attacks.

As Kawar said about Brannigan’s remarks, “her racist speech, which she claims is protected by the first amendment, has been a trend for many years and we have seen the impact of such rhetoric from elected officials nationally on the LatinX, Black, LGBTQIA and many other marginalized communities all across the nation.”

Tammy, a Palos Township resident said at the township meeting, “an elected official who harbors hate for a community forfeits the right to represent that community,” said Tammy, another community member.

Despite around 20 community members’ speeches at the public hearing and hundreds protesting outside, Sharon Brannigan refused to apologize for her statements.

Majority of the trustees, however, voiced their discontent with Brannigan’s racist remarks. “I believe the condemnation we received from the majority of trustees on the board is a step in the right direction and a clear statement that this board recognizes the seriousness of the matter,” says Kawar.

Palos Township includes seven cities in Cook County including Bridgeview, which has been dubbed Little Palestine due to its high concentration of Arab and Muslim residents.

Organizations in attendance included AAFS, NNAAC, AAAN, AMVOTEPAC, Odeh Law, Kiswani Law, and Southwest Suburban Activists. The next township meeting is scheduled for August 14th and all participating organizations plan to be there.

As the campaign to hold Brannigan accountable for her hateful remarks continues, so to does the whirlwind of media attention surrounding her name. Just recently, Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, called on Brannigan to resign from the Women’s Commission. The Take on Hate campaign Monday has been covered by broadcast networks like CBS, WGN, and Fox as well as several publications including the Chicago Tribune, the Sun-Times, and the Palos Patch.

“We want an apology from the board and a resignation from Sharon Brannigan and we will continue to be at every township hearing until that happens.” Taha says.

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