Awake Americans’ membership in the Naperville Chamber of Commerce is under review because of its affiliation with Awake Illinois, a Naperville group that has been criticized for its stance on transgender and gay issues and its opposition to events in the suburbs.
Awake Americans was founded in late April by Naperville resident Shannon Adcock as a tax-exempt affiliate of Awake Illinois. The group was welcomed this month as a new member of the chamber.
NACC President and CEO Kaylin Risvold, speaking in an email, said that because some chamber members have raised questions about Awake Americans being part of the organization, “the matter is under review.”
“Public comments are carefully considered as NACC leadership takes the concerns of our members and the community very seriously,” the chamber said in a statement posted on various social media platforms.
Awake Illinois was politically active during the spring municipal elections, particularly those involving school boards, and launched several campaigns, including one aimed at stopping a drag show at the UpRising Bakery and Cafe in a lake in the hills.
In one comment on Twitter about the show, the group said they “ruined this perverted event” and warned: “They’re after your kids, McHenry County.”
In another campaign, Adcock attended a Downers Grove Public Library board meeting to speak out against a drag bingo night, an event that was eventually canceled.
Ed Yonka, a spokesman for the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois, said he helped two suburban residents who were facing defamation lawsuits because they publicly criticized Awake Illinois and its agenda.
In response to the lawsuits, ACLU attorney Rebecca Glenberg said, “The Illinois Awakening and its leaders often accuse their opponents of nefarious motives or actions and use hostile epithets — such as ‘groomers,’ ‘hateful,’ ‘perverts,’ and ‘criminal liars.’ bastards,” to characterize those who disagree with them. Yet when others express their honest opinions about Awake Illinois, they respond with a demand for silence.”
Yonka said Awake Illinois’ desire to suppress any voice that disagrees with them “seems strange for a group that claims to protect free speech rights.”
In its purest sense, he said, it is “freedom of speech for me, but not for you.”
While the Naperville Chamber is a private organization and has the right to set membership rules, it also has to apply them equally to everyone, Yonka said.
NACC members include a variety of businesses and business-related businesses, as well as families, civic and community organizations, government and educational groups, and individuals. Religious groups and elected officials are among those with membership.
Adcock said Awake Americans, with a more national outlook, expects to attract people from around the country to its campus, which is headquartered on the second floor of the CityGate Center near Route 59 and Interstate 88.
“We have public events to empower citizens about our First Amendment right to free speech and our constitutional rights,” she said, “and so that’s really in line with what’s going to be good for Naperville commerce and empowering and empowering people in nonprofit advocacy … it really hits both those marks.”
The new nonprofit will celebrate its launch with an event on June 12 at the Arista Hotel in Naperville called “Woke 101: Marxism in America?”
This will be the first of many events, Adcock said.
She said speakers and guests will not only be staying at the hotel, they will be dining and enjoying what Naperville has to offer.
“This is a tremendous asset to Naperville commerce, and we’re excited to support it,” Adcock said.
As a 501(c) (3) organization, Awake Americans has tax-exempt status and is prohibited from focusing on a single political candidate or party. In contrast, Awake Illinois has 501(c) (4) status, which means it is tax-exempt and can make donations and lobby political candidates and parties.
Adcock has been a lightning rod for controversy in the past. When it emerged last year that she was being considered as a candidate for the City of Naperville’s Special Events and Amenities Commission, critics who called her political views too extreme made their opposition known through social media posts, newspaper letters and comments at meetings. Council.
In the end, her candidacy was withdrawn from consideration.