CHICAGO — A collective of progressive and Democratic Party groups will stage a protest outside a Republican fundraiser Friday featuring former congressman and provocative talk radio host Joe Walsh.
Set for 6:30 p.m. Friday at the headquarters of the Northwest Side GOP Club at 6122 N. Milwaukee Ave., the We-Bellion Bash will charge $75 per person to boost the nascent political group's budget for bolstering Republican candidates at the local and state levels.
The fundraiser immediately caught the attention of the Gladstone Park Huddle, a local offshoot of the Women's March on Washington that meets bimonthly to discuss progressive organizing tactics, according to group co-founder Sonia Mozek.
"The event was described as an 'occupation to return power to the people,' so we thought we'd better show them that we're here too," Mozek said. "We want to show other progressives in the area that they're not alone — that just because there's a big GOP banner hanging here, there are other progressives here who are supportive."
Independent of Mozek's group, 39th Ward Democratic Committeeman Robert Murphy has called on supporters to protest the fundraiser — but his action is aimed squarely against Walsh, he said.
Elected to a west suburban U.S. House of Representatives district during the Tea Party wave of 2010 only to be unseated two years later by Tammy Duckworth, Walsh has since gained popularity as the host of a conservative talk radio show airing in Chicago and New York.
He's also repeatedly made racially inflammatory comments, at one point saying on his radio show, "I have a dream that one day black America will cease their dependency on the government plantation, which has enslaved them to lives of poverty."
Similar statements are routinely posted to Walsh's Facebook page, with messages like "Islam wants Christians dead" and "If you are here illegally you are not an American."
Murphy hopes Friday's protest signals that his ward, which represents large Muslim and immigrant communities in neighborhoods like North Park and Mayfair, "is not fertile ground for this kind of hate speech and fear-mongering," he said.
"We want to call attention to the fact that the Republican Party in this part of the state is turning to this bigot as a spokesman, who's trying to divide and demean people" Murphy said. "They open an office in my ward saying they're going to create an alternative to the Democratic Party. Is Joe Walsh the alternative they're looking for?"
In response to the planned protest, Northwest Side GOP Club President Matt Podgorski wrote in an email that he's "kind of confused as to what they're protesting/demonstrating against."
"I am looking forward to an exciting grassroots night with friendly right-leaning neighbors," he added.