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Eaton: Regular folks send strong message on free speech

Eaton

Eaton

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Updated: September 9, 2012 6:20AM



Last week in Orland Park, those who believe in traditional values and the First Amendment stood shoulder to shoulder in support of Dan Cathy, the president of the Chick-fil-A restaurant chain, who had expressed a deeply held belief against gay marriage during an interview with a religious publication.

Same-sex marriage activists reacted in anger to his comments, and some elected officials in Chicago, where Chick-fil-A is trying to open a second restaurant, voiced criticism of Cathy and his stance. Ald. Joe Moreno (1st) said he was going to use aldermanic privilege to try to stop Chick-fil-A from opening in his ward. Mayor Rahm Emanuel ripped Cathy and Chick-fil-A for not reflecting “Chicago values.”

The gay rights group Equality Illinois launched an all-out effort to oust Chick-fil-A from Illinois, pressuring commercial property owners to not deal with the company.

Randy Hannig, Equality Illinois’ spokesman and political director, wrote Monday in USA Today that the organization wants “corporate leaders who allow Chick-fil-A to do business in their offices to consider a new restaurant option, urging contract renegotiations.”

Hannig is the nephew of Gary Hannig, who heads the Illinois Department of Transportation, and for seven years he was on House Speaker Mike Madigan’s issues development staff before moving to Equality Illinois. Randy Hannig has connections that matter and can put a lot of pressure on decision makers. We all know how the “Chicago Way” works — it all depends on who sent you.

Most of the approximately 10,000 people who stood in line up to 3 1/2 hours to order from the Orland Park Chick-fil-A last week were average, everyday suburbanites whose defiance of the Chicago verbal thuggery was clear.

“I was there and it was an awesome show of support,” Lemont’s Michelle Gatses said. “I waited two hours in the heat, and it was well worth it.”

Everyone who stood in 95-degree heat figuratively stood shoulder-to-shoulder with Cathy and his right to hold his beliefs and express them as well as their own right to defy politically correct oppression.

The company’s official line remained cautious Tuesday.

“We want to make sure everyone knows that last Wednesday was a community coming together in support of Chick-fil-A,” Orland Park store manager Laura Sanchez said. “Chick-fil-A did not organize or publicize the event.”

If the company had organized the effort, the turnout wouldn’t have been as big as it was. Americans like to support those they perceive as being bullied and a grass-roots effort is more attractive.

Chick-fil-A wasn’t prepared for last week’s demonstrations and demand for its food. While other of its restaurants ran out of food, Orland Park’s never did, Sanchez said, although it came close. The store closed at 10 p.m., with some employees having worked 14 hours, she said.

“We had to let them get rest and get the story ready for the next day. When we closed the doors at 10, we were down to our last box of fries, and there were still people in line. We handed out coupons to come back another day,” Sanchez said.

And business at the restaurant has not dropped off since, she said.

“We noticed things getting busy a week before the Appreciation Day was announced,” Sanchez said. “And while Monday is usually our slowest day, (last Monday) was busier than ever. People still are supporting us.”

You know, those people whose opinions supposedly don’t matter. The ones who rarely, if ever, write letters to the editor, call in to radio talk shows or express their opinions on blogs. They are busy supporting their families, caring for their kids and their homes, checking on Grandma and helping friends and neighbors in need. The taxpayers. The average citizens who don’t fear holding views different from Emanuel, Moreno or Equality Illinois.

One retired couple from Mokena who were in line at the Orland Park Chick-fil-A last week said they ate there a “couple times a week” and had “never seen anything like this,” the man said. “There’s something that’s going on, that’s for sure. Let’s hope the mayor gets the message.”

God bless that man, I thought later. But standing in line at the Chick-fil-A to send a message to America means nothing to Rahm and his buddies. The people who stood in line on Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day need to turn out to vote on Nov. 6. Maybe then Rahm and his like will get the message.

Fran Eaton is a Southland resident who co-founded and edits the conservative political blog, illinoisreview.com.



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