The bullying of Sharon Brannigan

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The bullying of Sharon Brannigan

Sharon Brannigan, a suburban Township politician who made some improper comparisons while arguing about immigration policy has suddenly become the target of the protesters against anti-Muslim, anti-Arab racism. But in their protests, they have turned into bullies who yell, scream, and disrespect the image of what Arabs are all about. And the protests are being waged in the shadow of a more sinister politicization of racism in a battle by failed Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle to get even with her much more politically adept rivals

By Ray Hanania

(Published in the Southwest News Newspaper group) — Palos Township Trustee Sharon Brannigan made some mildly offensive comments on her personal Facebook Page way back in January 2015 about “Middle Easterners” that were less about racism and more about the fears many Americans share.

It took two and one-half years for Brannigan’s critics, mostly Muslim activists, to accuse her of “anti-Muslim” racism.

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The timing looks suspicious to me. Something else is going on that the protesters are not addressing.

Brannigan is Republican. Palos Township is Republican. The Township leadership has openly defied the tax policies of Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, a do-nothing former Democratic Machine alderman from the Chicago’s South Side.

Sharon Brannigan

Preckwinkle, and several Democratic officials, have provided support, both financially and politically, to some of the anti-Brannigan protesters.

Preckwinkle had reason to target Brannigan. She hoped Brannigan’s comments would stymie the opponents of her oppressive 1 Cent soda pop and sweetened beverage tax.

In fact, it was the combined support of the Palos Township Republican Organization, including Brannigan and others, who were the foundation of the campaign led by Cook County Board member Sean Morrison that blocked the Preckwinkle tax. It’s something I will write more about soon.

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Morrison, also the Palos Township Republican Committeeman, thwarted Preckwinkle at every turn. Morrison is responsible for leading the non-partisan Republican and Democratic movement that revoked the soda pop tax imposed by Preckwinkle in July.

Ironically, the protesters began targeting Brannigan at the same time, in July.

It is true. Muslims in America, and Christian Arabs like myself who most Americans “think” is Muslim – I’m Orthodox Christian from a Bethlehem family raised and confirmed Lutheran – do face racism and bigotry.

Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle

But none of Brannigan’s comments came even close to the intensity of the racist hate that faces Muslims in this country. Brannigan was legitimately concerned about this country’s failed immigration system, one that Democrats like Preckwinkle and Congressman Luis Gutierrez have exploited for their own personal benefit.

If the immigration problem were ever resolved, many of these do-nothing elected officials would have nothing to “champion.” They really don’t want the immigration problem resolved.

Preckwinkle knows Brannigan, and she immediately bullied Brannigan to step down from her volunteer position on the County’s Woman’s Commission.

And the word “bullied” is very appropriate in this controversy.

Since July, protesters have crowded meetings of the Palos Township Board screaming, yelling and making threats, demanding that Preckwinkle’s foe, Brannigan, resign.

Videos of the meetings showing protesters yelling and screaming are disturbing. I know some of the protesters and most are good people. And they are being pushed by extremists who hope to disrupt the Township which spends most of its time providing badly needed services to seniors and homeowners.

Despite the disruptive conduct of the protesters, Brannigan and the board have politely allowed each and every protester to speak, even allowing them to takeover the meeting.

Grocery store sign informing customers in suburban Cook County that the Toni Preckwinkle tax hike on sweetened drinks (Soda) has been delayed because of a court challenge. Photo courtesy of Ray Hanania

Grocery store sign informing customers in suburban Cook County that the Toni Preckwinkle tax hike on sweetened drinks (Soda) has been delayed because of a court challenge. Photo courtesy of Ray Hanania

Brannigan issued a very strongly worded and sincere apology to the Muslim and Arab community in September. The protesters called it “too little, too late.” The truth is, it was her 3rd apology, that they rejected. She had apologized back in July, too.

Many of the protesters don’t care about racism. They don’t care about the Township’s seniors. They don’t care about good government. But they do care about politics and avenging Preckwinkle for the shaming she received from Palos Township officials who led the fight to defend the rights of Cook County Taxpayers.

Muslims and Arabs in this area continue to face discrimination, including the adoption of a State law recently that punishes them if they criticize Israel’s abuses of Muslims and Christians in the occupied West Bank and Jerusalem.

That’s an issue they should be fighting. But you won’t see any of them in Gov. Rauner’s offices, at Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s offices or even Preckwinkle’s offices. They might not get those precious government grants and support they are used too.

(Ray Hanania is an award-winning columnist and former Chicago City Hall reporter. Email him at

Ray Hanania

Ray Hanania is an award-winning columnist, author & former Chicago City Hall reporter (1977-1992). A veteran who served during the Vietnam War and the recipient of four SPJ Peter Lisagor Awards for column writing, Hanania writes weekly opinion columns on mainstream American & Chicagoland topics for the Southwest News-Herald, Des Plaines Valley News, the Regional News, The Reporter Newspapers, and Suburban Chicagoland.  

Hanania also writes about Middle East issues for the Arab News, and The Arab Daily News criticizing government policies in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

A critic of mainstream news media bias, Hanania advocates for peace & justice for Israel & Palestine, & the empowerment of Arabs in America. 

"I write about three topics, the Middle East, politics and life in general. I often take my life experiences and offer them in an entertaining way to readers, and I take on the toughest topics like the Israel-Palestine conflict and don't pull any punches about what I feel is fair. But, my priority is always about writing the good story."

Click Here to LISTEN to Hanania's live radio show on 2nd Friday every month 7 AM CST. Click here to listen to Ray's Podcasts. 

His columns are archived here. Hanania was named "Best Ethnic American Columnist" by the New America Media in November 2007, and is the 2009 recipient of the SPJ National Sigma Delta Chi Award for column writing.

Email Ray Hanania at

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6 comments on “The bullying of Sharon Brannigan
  1. Community Member says:

    With all due respect, the facts are lacking in this piece. Racism must be fought at every angle. The first racist comments discovered are traced back to 2015 but the continuous attacks are also well documented, from American Sniper mentions to the current administration’s visit to Saudi- Brannigan claiming that women who wore Hijab are not well deiginified, which is traced back to 2017.
    This effort by no means is led by Muslim activist or any other activists, it is lead by a community coalition that includes the doctors, attorneys, daily laborers and STUDENTS, who are no longer willing to remain silent. By no means this is a partisan effort, if Cook County President made a principled decision it doesn’t reflect any partisanship to the effort.
    This township claims many programs that they don’t offer including their Sniors and Youth services and I advice the author to do some real research and step away from politics.
    Ray, you need to limit your extremist right wing politics and get in the community, you don’t represent any community members and before you publish you should spend some time in the community.

    A community member!!

    • Ray Hanania says:

      I not only respect your views and opinions but I also respect even more the way you present them. Unfortunately, the protesters are not coming across the way you are. They are angry, yelling, screaming, using bull horns and noises, and calling the Township officials names … isn’t that wrong also?

      But I think the real issue is this. Many people who live in the Southwest Suburbs just don’t know enough about Arabs or Muslims. They see them, are manipulated by the biased, racist news media into fearing them, and then express those fears in their political or social comments.

      I don’t consider that kind of expression an expression of racism. I consider it an act of fear. So, I did what the protesters did not do. I sat down and spoke with Brannigan. (I never met her before except once when he was in a parade that I was writing about and she handed me a flyer during her congressional election campaign against Dan Lipinski). She did not come across racist at all. In fact, when we talked about what she said and I asked her, she explained what she was trying to say and told me and then acknowledged she was wrong in some of what she said about “Middle Easterners.”

      Don’t you think the protesters are exaggerating things to make it look worse? For example, she said she didn’t think Melania Trump should wear a head covering while in Saudi Arabia. I don’t think she should have worn a head covering either. That’s not racist. That’s a political view. I agree with her.

      Anyway, as for Preckwinkle, she doesn’t care about Arabs or the Arab community at all. She has done nothing for us … and she was in a BIG FIGHT with the GOP Committeeman of Palos Township at the time this started. Sean Morrison forced the County Board to reverse itself and repeal Preckwinkle’s soda tax. Preckwinkle said that she felt she was being attacked personally — that was her pathetic defense. She singled our Morrison for her scorn and attacks. here is no way anyone is going to convince me that Preckwinkle didn’t see this as an opportunity to create controversy against her rival — although it didn’t work.

      I wish all of the discussions about the Arab and Muslim community were calm and focused on issues. We have too many extremists, fanatics, haters, and emotional people who can’t control themselves. They make us LOOK BAD. Those videos were depressing and I might not have written column had I not seen how ugly those protesters have turned the meeting. Already, they are viciously attacking me personally. But I don’t care about extremists … they can scream and yell all they want. They just make themselves look bad.

      Thanks for sharing your views. You have a lot of good points but I think that if you or anyone sat down with Brannigan the way I did, you would change your mind.


      • Megan Leora says:

        I think you’re glossing over too many relevant details, quite honestly. You’re missing a lot nuances that are generational and related to political climate. I don’t think ANYONE in the United States knows enough about Muslims or Arabs — and it’s a problem for a number of reasons. But as it pertains to this discussion, Ray, where you see only see emotional, hyper-sensitive outbursts, you fail to see a palpable pain. They tried being polite about it. For years. No one is listening. So what works? We see this with the “kneeling” issue. You call them violent when they set things on fire (and rightfully so), but you say that kneeling is disrespectful or that the cast of a theatre production chose the “wrong place and wrong time” to make a public speech while Mike Pence was in the audience. No one wants to listen.

        So how do they get you to listen to them?

        I’m from Naperville – the country’s best suburb to live in. Affluent, white, privileged. I went to a wealthy high school, was raised by wealthy parents, and had an extremely privileged upbringing. I recently learned that my high school (I graduated many years ago) now offers Chinese in addition to French, German, Spanish, and has a Chinese club in addition to many organizations related to such. Naperville is also Republican and Christian – and American Christians are much different. Can you imagine trying to convince IPSD 204 to include Arabic as even an option? Not even mandatory? My god, people would be lighting up PTA meetings and protesting on the streets. A woman in NC complained to the school board because her child was forced to look and copy an Arabic word. A little diversity could go along way for people like Brannigan. I’m used to people like her. I grew up with petty adults like her.

        They’re frustrated. And for good reason. They’ve tried being calm and polite. They’ve tried doing what you want. But I’m starting to believe there’s never a place and time for it because you just don’t want to listen. You can’t blame them for being frustrated. Especially when things like this happen:

        The threat of extremism is GROSSLY exaggerated in this country and it’s Muslims who pay the price for that fear. For NO reason. And you want to know why they just “can’t stop being emotional”? Come on, man.

        Hi, I’m Megan by the way. Not Arab and not a descendant of Arabs. I’m as American as apple pie, but I learned to speak Arabic. I listen to Fairouz in the morning and Oum Kathoum in the evening. I lived in Jordan and Morocco and will defend the cuisines of both countries.

      • Lou Westin says:

        So you sat down with Brannigan and during your talk with her, she didn’t come off as prejudice/racist, so In your opinion that means that she’s not preduice/racist?

        But Preckwinkle doesn’t care about the Arab community? Hmm… I think you should sit down with Preckwinkle too and ask her why she’s not doing anything for the Arab community.

        As far as these so called “facts” you present, are your not citing facts, you are citing personal opinions.

      • Lou Westin says:

        So you sat down with Brannigan and during your talk with her, she didn’t come off as prejudice/racist, so in your opinion that means that she’s not prejudice/racist?
        But Preckwinkle doesn’t care about the Arab community? Hmm… I think you should sit down with Preckwinkle too and ask her why she’s not doing anything for the Arab community.
        As far as these so called “facts” you present, you are not citing facts, you are citing personal opinions.

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