EFFINGHAM – A movement that sparked almost a year ago when the Effingham County Board voted to protect its citizens' Second Amendment rights is spreading to over 61 Illinois counties and at the same time, broadening to include an array of issues and passionate voters.
A week ago Sunday, over 1500 like-minded downstate Illinoisans filled to overflowing the Effingham Performance Center to hear the latest about how Chicago Leftists in the State Capitol are ramming through radical gun control and abortion policies, forcing public school children to study historic figures based on their sexual orientation, and taking money out of their wallets while stealing basic Constitutional rights.
The frustration and resentment of Chicago political powers forcing their Leftist worldview on voters that supported Donald Trump in 2016 was palpable among the 1500 gathered as speaker after speaker tackled the issues.
That was especially true when State Rep. Brad Halbrook (R-Shelbyville) asked the crowd midway into the program, "Who wants to separate from Chicago and Cook County?" The crowd stood and cheered in response.
Halbrook went on to articulate exactly what would need to be done in order to pull away from Chicago and Cook County – a practical, step-by-step plan that followed a resolution the state rep introduced to the Illinois legislature in February. That resolution called for Chicago to become that 51st state – separating from the rest of Illinois.
In February, Illinois Review published news of Halbrook's resolution and the story was "liked" on Facebook over 12,000 times – a significant response for a state issue.
"Everything that matters to the people in my district is under attack," Halbrook told Illinois Review this week. "The issue of life, the issue of marriage, the school curriculum. Everything these people hold near and dear to their hearts – our hearts – is under attack by far left legislators from the city."
Three downstate freshman state legislators – Rep. Darren Bailey, Chris Miller & Blaine Wilhour – rented the Center for a town hall, and within two weeks, over 1500 people gathered on a Sunday afternoon to hear what was going on in Springfield. Halbrook was invited to address the crowd.
Halbrook said he introduced the resolution at the urging of Gina Merritt of New Illinois – a separation group from the northern part of Illinois that has been working with Paul Preston of New California. The movement is catching on downstate under the leadership of Effingham County Board member Dave Campbell, who first introduced the Second Amendment Sanctuary county resolution last April.
The frustration among Illinois voters outside of Chicago and Cook County is growing, and it's something that lawmakers will soon be unable to ignore, Halbrook said.
"I sense something – I don't know what it is – I don't want to read more into it than is there, but there is something going on. I think here is a way that people are channeling their energies," Halbrook said.
Several different groups are pushing the separation effort – including the Illinois Separation Group, which is doing a county by county petition drive to get an advisory referendum about separating from Chicago and Cook County on their counties' November 2020 ballots.
"We need to energize people at the local level – changing local boards to affect taxes. Electing a new treasurer, local officials, can affect the money people are paying. We made a difference in just two local elections. Get the right people in, things will be different locally," Halbrook said.
Will the movement grow, see victories, or will it be short-term venting similar to the Tea Party movement that developed when Barack Obama was elected president?
"There's no way for me to know where this will go," Halbrook said. "But I'm laying out a pathway they can take if they really want to make a difference in Illinois."
Halbrook's idea includes a step-by-step action plan as allowed by the U.S. Constitution. "It can be done, but it will take some work," he said. He's been invited to share the idea at numerous downstate Republican Lincoln Day Dinners within the part month. Each time he raises the question, "Who wants to separate from Chicago and Cook County?"
Here's Rep. Halbrook's 5-minute March 10th speech, posted by Illinois Review on our YouTube page: