Palos Police arrest five protestors at Township meeting

Palos Police arrest five protestors at Township meeting
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Palos Police arrest five protestors at Township meeting

Five protestors who are part of a group criticizing popular Palos Township Trustee Sharon Brannigan for comments she made in 2017 about immigration reform, were arrested and charged by Palos Police. The group claims they were abiding by the laws when they were arrested, but Township officials say they were disrupting the meeting including as the board tried to conduct it’s business agenda

By Ray Hanania

For the past 22 months, activists from the Arab American Action Network (AAAN) in Chicago, have been protesting at  meetings of the Palos Township board demanding the resignation of popular Trustee Sharon Brannigan for Facebook posts she made in 2017 the critics assert are “racist.”

Township officials said the protestors have bullied officials and members of the public, intentionally yelled and screamed during the meeting to disrupt the meeting agenda not during the public commentary period but throughout the entire board meetings. Some residents claimed they were verbally assaulted by the small group of protestors who often attend the meetings with their children.

During those 22 months, the board has tolerated the disruptions, Township officials said,which included yelling, screaming, pounding on tables, and verbal disruptions that clearly intended to proevent the board from conducting its meetings. On Monday, June 10, 2019, security officers hired by the Township arrested five of the 22 protestors who attended the meeting and who refused to silence their protests during the board meeting.

Palos Township Trustee Sharon Brannigan

Palos Township Trustee Sharon Brannigan

Protestor leaders asserted that they were acting within the confines of the First Amendment, claiming they were “dragged” out of the public meeting disrespectfully, but Township officials said the verbal abuse took place throuhgout the meeting and was intended to prevent the meetings from taking place, a goal the protestors asserted repeatedly was their goal during the 22 months of the protest action.

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The Arab American Action Network posted this Tweet at 7:25 pm:

“5 #ResignBrannigan organizers arrested for “criminal trespass,” even though NOT ONE resisted when they were asked to leave the @palostownship meeting. Disgusting #racism from the trustees and the police!

Township officials said the protestors were arrested NOT because they resisted when arrested, as the AAAN asserted, or because they failed to leave the meeting when asked, but because they refused to quell their protests during the board’s meeting. Protestors have been allowed to speak during the public participation period of the board meetings but disruptions during the board meeting are illegal under state law.

The group has described itself as “The campaign to Take on Hate” against Palos Township but xsome Township officials described the group as “The Campaign to Create Hate” because of the often angry, loud and personal namecalling that has characterized the protestors’ actions.

For the past 22 months, people who live in Palos Township have been shocked by the abusive conduct from the small handful of protestors who ranged from 20 to 30 people, including children. Some of the protestors are leaders of Charitable Organizations and 501 C3 groups that service Arab American issues but who are violating the prohibition on political activism.

Brannigan, who apologized three times for her comments that were posted on her Facebook Page which were about the broken immigration system in America, issued her own statement that some media refused to publish. Click here to read the apology.

“Undoubtedly you’ve become aware that the Palos Township Board had protesters arrested this evening during the General Board meeting.  Only the protestors who were disruptive yelling and trying to obstruct the meeting were removed and arrested,” Brannigan said in her release issued immediately after the Palos Township board meeting ended.

“For the last two years, the protesters (most of whom don’t live in the district) are responsible for violating the rights of residents.  Our residents have seen their rights trampled and abused by the uncompromising and intolerant outside professional agitators.  The Palos Township Board has been patient listening and understanding for the last two years.  As you can see by the arrest records, only one of the five people arrested live in the township,” Brannigan said in her statement.

“The Board as well as the Department of Justice has had a combined two years of attempted conversations with the protesters and to no avail have they cooperated. More and more residents have said they wanted something done and that they are concerned about the violent rhetoric of the protestors who have gone way beyond acceptable public conduct to bully anyone who disagrees with them … they have bullied and shouted down people who disagree with their views and is about time this kind of disrespectful hate-driven angry protests be held to account.”

Brannigan concluded reflecting the view of nearly all of the people who live in the Southwest region of Chicago, saying, “By all means, dissent is encouraged but the behavior of the protesters has gone way beyond what any public agency or community should be forced to experience.”

Among those arrested on the misdemeanor charges, according to police reports, was Bassem S. Kawar, who was identified as living in Tinley Park, Illinois outside of Palos Township. Kawar was charged with “Criminal Tresspass to State Supported Land” in violation of Chapter 720 Section 21-5a, and was released on a $1,500 bond (10 percent.) A court hearing has been set for July 15, 2019 at the Bridgeview Court House.

AAAN officials vowed on Facebook to continue the protests. Palos Township officials said members of the public will continue to be permitted to exercise their free speech rights during the public participation period of the board meetings, but will not be allowed to scream, yell or disrupt the regular meeting agenda of the board.

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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 rghanania@gmail.com.

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