Community impact of conservative grassroots organization Awake Illinois

Tabitha Irvin, Opinion Editor

Around the country, conservative grassroots organizations have gained traction, influencing legislative bodies as small as local school boards and as large as the U.S. Senate. District 99 and the wider DuPage county have not remained immune to their reach. 

Last school year, an organization called WakeUp D99 rose to prominence. Dressed in red, their members frequented D99 BOE meetings. They were a vocal community, well known for their opposition to critical race theory, sex education, and masking policies. 

Headed by Laura Hois, a previous Republican candidate for the Illinois House of Representatives, WakeUp D99 remained an organization throughout the 2021-2022 school year. Currently, their website cannot be reached. Once boasting 100 followers, their Facebook account no longer exists.

These facts suggest that the politically motivated organization no longer exists, however, due to their anonymity, no definitive assertion can be made. However, the disappearance of WakeUp D99 has not silenced the conservative viewpoint in Illinois or Downers Grove. 

The first chapter of a group called Awake Illinois was chartered in May of 2022 in Naperville. Since its inauguration, the non-profit social welfare organization has expanded to 34 chapters, encompassing a variety of towns and counties throughout the state. Their Facebook page is liked by 17,834 people. 

Despite its large media presence, Awake Illinois is a largely anonymous organization; only the executive board members and several liaisons are explicitly named. Additionally, interviews with members of Awake Illinois were requested but a response was never received. 

The website offers links to donate and resources for parents and community members to become involved. There are free graphics that rally against current Governor J.B. Pritzker, one of which states “You hurt Illinois kids. We vote NO.” Other graphics, also available as yard signs and posters, criticize planned parenthood and national sex standards and encourage voters to “Resuscitate Illinois and vote Republican.”

Awake Illinois’ campaign to vote Republican extends beyond graphics, however. In August of this year, Awake Illinois joined forces with Elevate and Inspire, Freedom Illinois, and the Illinois Patriots. Together, they formed Restore Illinois, a coalition that urges “a rallying call as we head into the November 8th General Election.” 

They endorse Republican candidates such as Darren Bailey (for governor), Keith Pekau (for U.S. Congress District 6), and Thomas Devore (for attorney general). Last year, both WakeUp D99 and Awake Illinois backed the lawsuit against Governor Pritzer and his executive order on school masking. Devore was the plaintiff’s lawyer for the case, which resulted in a temporary restraining order against Pritzker’s mandate. 

Devore, along with Bailey, appeared at a campaign event sponsored in part by Awake Illinois. Their post in May dubbed them as “the two courageous men who took a stand against the tyrannical J.B. Pritzker.” 

Large-scale endorsements aren’t indicative of all the elections Awake Illinois hopes to influence. Available on their website are candidate and training materials for community members interested in running for school boards.

The interest in electing those who support conservative ideology to local BOEs is not a new one. With COVID-19 and claims of liberal indoctrination infiltrating the public school system came a national movement. Over the past year and a half, the voices of these conservative parents and community members have been amplified by PACs such as WakeUp D99 and Awake Illinois. 

Most recently, Awake Downers Grove successfully canceled a drag bingo event offered by the Downers Grove Public Library. In a Sep.15 blog post, the larger non-profit celebrated “a victory for the protection of all children.”

Overall, while their impact on the state of Illinois cannot be refuted, controversy continues to surround Awake Illinois and the group’s advocacy.