In huge victory for the Arab Community, Sharon Brannigan defeated in Palos Township
Fight Back News Service is circulating the following statement by the #ByeBrannigan campaign. On Tuesday, April 6th, 2021, the #ByeBrannigan campaign, led by Arab community organizers of the southwest suburbs of Chicago, mobilized hundreds of Palestinians, Yemenis, and other Arabs to the polls to defeat the racist Sharon Brannigan, who lost the race for Palos Township Assessor in a landslide to incumbent Robert Maloney.
But it wasn't Maloney who won the election. It was the Arab community and its allies that are responsible for this historic victory, three years and nine months after the launching of the #ResignBrannigan Coalition, which first protested Brannigan, the former Palos Township Trustee, in response to racist, anti-Arab, and anti-Muslim statements she has posted online.
For almost four years, southwest suburban Arabs and other residents attended every monthly Palos Township board meeting, demanding Brannigan’s resignation, her censure by the rest of the board, and more transparency and accountability from the township in general.
Despite verbal threats from Brannigan, some of the other board members, and other racists she recruited to attend the meetings, protesters never wavered, turning many of the gatherings into educational workshops on racism, white supremacy, and hate groups; free speech filibusters; and even civil disobedience.
Brannigan and the board’s attempts to silence the community consistently failed, even after they hired a security company to bully protesters and call the Palos Hills police, leading to the arrests of five #ResignBrannigan leaders. Protesters were vindicated, however, when the judge deemed Brannigan’s testimony “contradictory,” dismissed the case, and “essentially affirmed the right of protestors to chant and challenge Brannigan and other trustees at the township meetings,” according to an October 2020 statement from the Arab American Action Network.
“Yes, Brannigan is a Trump Republican, and received political support from Cook County Commissioner Sean Morrison, who is also the chair of the county’s Republican Party,” said Husam Marajda, #ByeBrannigan Campaign Coordinator, “and yes, the southwest suburbs of Chicago is predominantly white and right wing, and historically votes Republican.”
“But she was also supported by other members of the township board who are independents or Democratic Party operatives,” Marajda added, “so in its essence, #ByeBrannigan was not supporting Maloney or practicing partisanship. It was formed and organized exclusively to defeat Brannigan and her racism and white supremacy.”
Some forces in the Arab community did not support the original tactics of #ResignBrannigan, believing instead that it should practice “respectability politics” and insist to the township board that Arabs and Muslims are “good neighbors and good people.” Some wanted to negotiate with Brannigan and accept her disingenuous apologies. And some supported Brannigan outright, with one Arab institution honoring her and Morrison together at a banquet, and other right-wing Arabs publishing articles or social media posts attacking the protesters and defending her racism.
But these voices were easily isolated, as the broader working class and immigrant Arab community was mobilized for close to four years to protest Brannigan’s racism. This base learned lessons from the Black liberation movement and other anti-racist campaigns, understanding that white supremacists can never be left unchallenged, because hate speech leads to violence against the communities directly affected by it. This was seen many times in the past five years, ever since the announcement of Trump’s presidential campaign. When legislators like him spew hatred, racists and white supremacists are emboldened to attack.
And this is why #ResignBrannigan confronted Brannigan and her supporters at every turn, why it refused “dialogue” and “negotiations” with the racists, and why it did not choose appeasement. Thousands of community members participated in some aspect of the protests over the years, because #ResignBrannigan had the correct, confrontational line against the enemy, and the majority of Arabs in the township agreed with it.
#ResignBrannigan protests continued even during the COVID-19 pandemic, with community members joining the Palos Township board’s public Zoom calls to oppose Brannigan and her apologist board colleagues, and coalition leaders organizing car caravans to drive through board members’ home neighborhoods and expose their racism.
When Brannigan announced that she was running for Palos Township Assessor instead of reelection as a trustee, #ResignBrannigan immediately declared a small victory, even though her opportunist fellow trustees tried (unsuccessfully) to separate themselves from her racism by running on a slate without her. #ResignBrannigan understood that she had grown tired of the monthly protests and was trying to run away from them without resigning. Little did she know that #ByeBrannigan would not allow her to rest.
The independent #ByeBrannigan campaign ran an operation that made over 20,000 phone calls to Arab and other voters in the township, and knocked on close to 5,000 doors, calling on residents to vote against racism and white supremacy, to vote against Brannigan. Its negative campaigning hardly mentioned Maloney at all, focusing instead on Brannigan’s posts, words, and actions.
Make no mistake. Arab voters were not mobilized by their interest in a township election. They were not mobilized by Arab candidates running for other seats. They were not mobilized by Maloney.
Arab voters were mobilized to defeat Brannigan. They were mobilized by #ByeBrannigan to defend their community and their people by defeating Brannigan’s racism and white supremacy.
And we won!