Trustee denounces support of Jones
Brannigan condemns Holocaust-denying candidate’s statements
Palos Township Trustee Sharon Brannigan, whose controversial comments about Arab immigrants have made her the target of protests for more than a year, condemned the statements of a congressional candidate with a Nazi past as “repulsive blather” and offered her critics flowers.
Brannigan made the statement after Arthur Jones, the Holocaustdenying Republican nominee for Illinois’ 3rd Congressional District, attended a Township Board meeting to declare his public support for the trustee, who made comments on Facebook suggesting the area’s public schools were filling with Middle Eastern students living in the U.S. illegally and asserted that local Muslims often failed to integrate into the community.
After engaging in some verbal sparring with protesters seated around him, Jones was quickly drowned out by a chorus of boos and calls of “Nazis go home!”
Jones has said he has not been affiliated with a Nazi group since the 1980s.
When Brannigan and her fellow trustees entered the boardroom, organizer Bassem Kawar dumped what he said were a thousand postcards objecting to her comments across a table in front of the dais.
“Nazis were in this room advocating for you,” he said to Brannigan, pounding the table in front of him. “You should be proud of that, huh . .. Shame on you.”
Outside the boardroom afterward, Kawar told protesters that Jones’ appearance in support of Brannigan at Monday’s meeting marked “a landmark in our protest.”
Brannigan, a Republican who ran against U.S. Rep. Dan Lipinski in 2014, has faced more than a year’s worth of protests from constituents and organizers who have demanded her resignation over controversial Facebook comments, which Brannigan has since apologized for. Her comments also questioned what Lipinski had done to “stem the flow of Middle Eastern immigration into our beloved United States while we are at war with Islamic extremists.”
Reached for comment Tuesday, Brannigan reiterated that she would not resign and distanced herself from Jones.
“I reject and condemn Arthur Jones and his candidacy for any office in any state in our United States of America,” she said in an email. “He and his repulsive blather is such that it is nonsensical for me to waste words or breath on a person so low in character.”
Jones, who stood with supporters across the street from the township offices after Monday’s meeting, acknowledged that he’d never met or spoken to Brannigan, but said he wanted to offer her his support because he thought she was being unfairly maligned.
After the meeting, Brannigan said she presented the protesters with a bouquet of flowers — she owns a flower shop — as a peace offering of sorts.
“I asked them to ‘Stop the Hate’ and to come together with respect and professionalism to address any issue,” she said in an email. “It reflects my feelings from the very beginning to apologize to anyone who felt my comments about immigration were offensive or racist in intent. They were not.”
Kawar, who received the flowers from Brannigan, said he was going to keep them, but didn’t know what to make of her gesture.
He said if she thought flowers would defuse the protests, she was mistaken.
“We don’t fight racism with flowers. Racism has to be confronted. White supremacy has to be confronted,” he said. “You could buy me acres of flowers and roses. It’s not going to defeat the fact that when you make mistakes, there has to be accountability. You have to pay the price.”