A rally organized by a challenger in the race for 1st District Cook County commissioner was staged outside the incumbent’s district office Thursday, and the event got a little ugly as supporters from both sides broke into a shouting match.
The dust-up occurred outside the office of Cook County Commissioner Earlean Collins, who’s running for re-election against Oak Parker Ade Onayemi and two other challengers in the Feb. 2 Democratic primary. Onayemi, a former Oak Park elementary school board president, organized the rally. His supporters camped out around 10 a.m. in front of Collins’ district headquarters in the Austin community, 5943 W. Madison, just west of Austin Boulevard.
Collins was at a meeting that morning but showed up to the office later that afternoon. Onayemi, however, was there with supporters who were passing out fliers to pedestrians. Some of Collins’ supporters showed up at the office, including Wyanetta Johnson, president of Oak Park parent group APPLE (African American Parents for Purposeful Leadership in Education). About a half hour into the rally, Johnson got into a shouting match with Robert Moore, a Collins detractor who’s not affiliated with Onayemi’s campaign, according to the candidate. The argument began mildly but escalated as the two attacked the others’ candidate while onlookers gathered.
Onayemi was not present during the squabble, but did arrive shortly thereafter.
Johnson, an outspoken Oak Park education activist, asked repeatedly, “What has he done?” referring to Onayemi, who’s architectural business is in Austin. Moore then began attacking Collins, accusing her of putting the public’s interests behind her own.
Johnson, who was standing in the doorway, then told Moore: “What you need to do is come in here and support Earlean Collins.”
Moore responded, “She needs to support the community.”
These back-and-forth gibes went on for several more minutes. Johnson went on to question the man’s sanity, saying that he was “making a fool of yourself.” Undeterred, Moore questioned Johnson’s intelligence, responding, “You’re supporting her and you don’t even know what she’s done.”
“She’s done more than he’s ever done,” Johnson quickly chimed back, taking another swipe at Onayemi.
The battle eventually died down as another woman inside Collins’ office told Johnson not to waste her time in continuing to argue. As the two went inside, Johnson remarked that the man needed “prayer.” Moore, in turn, lobbed another barb at Collins.
“Don’t pray for me, pray for the community if she stays in office,” he said. The supporter then asserted that he’d still be outside telling voters not to support the commissioner.
Speaking to Wednesday Journal, Johnson said of Onayemi, “I love him as a person, but I’ll tell you this much, as a politician he don’t have a clue what to do. Ask him what is he going to do differently than Earlean Collins. He can’t even tell you anything about Earlean Collins. He’s been reading of late, but he doesn’t know anything about Earlean Collins.”
Prior to the argument between supporters, Onayemi told Wednesday Journal that the rally was organized to send a message to Collins that “we’re taking this election very seriously.”
Onayemi added that he’s seen Collins become more active during this election cycle.
“Well, let’s make her see that we’re active too,” he said. “People have been asking me, ‘Have you expressed your opinion?’ And we’ve done that as far as our literature and our Web site, but we think we need to reach more people.”