Student Petition Aims to Cancel Trump Rally in Chicago, Protests Planned

The GOP presidential hopeful is expected to speak at a free rally Friday at the University of Illinois-Chicago Pavilion

Thousands of people have signed a petition to get the University of Illinois-Chicago to cancel Donald Trump’s rally at the school pavilion Friday.

As of Monday morning, nearly 43,000 people had signed the petition arguing the rally “has no place in Chicago but especially not at an institution of higher learning.” 

“In many instances Trump rallies have led to students, youth, and people of color being violently attacked by attendees,” the petition, started by a graduate student at the university, read. “UIC should not be host to hate. Please cancel the event.”

Thousands of students are also planning a peaceful protest at the event, encouraging Trump critics to obtain tickets to the free rally as well as gather outside the venue.

The GOP presidential hopeful will speak at the free rally Friday at the UIC Pavilion, according to his campaign website. 

The event is scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. but doors will open at 3 p.m.

Protesters cited the Republican front-runner's stance on immigration, his calls to bring back torture techniques like waterboarding for alleged terrorists and a recent endorsement from white supremacist David Duke.

"The platform Donald Trump would announce at the UIC Pavilion is a direct attack on much of the UIC student body - from mass deportation to a ban on muslims to a refusal to denounce the KKK, not to mention regular insults to women," the student petition reads. "If UIC is a 'minority serving institution' that comes with specific responsibility. And that doesn't include serving white supremacists or hosting events that put the student body at risk of altercations with attendees who have a history of violent attacks on people of color at his rallies." 

Trump is known for drawing large, protest-ridden rallies, but he has argued the massive events are evidence of a "movement" of a "silent majority" frustrated by everything from the nation's uneven economy and immigration laws to a government run by "stupid people."

The school's chancellor, Michael Amiridis addressed students' concerns Saturday saying the university "is not endorsing, sponsoring or supporting any candidate for political office." Rather, it is continuing with a decades-long tradition of hosting campaign events on campus, he said, noting there is no legal basis to exclude a candidate "because of the views he or she expresses."

"UIC’s core values of freedom, equality and social justice for all, regardless of race, religion, national origin, disability status or sexual orientation, are deeply rooted in our diverse community and not endangered by the presence of any political candidate on campus," Amiridis wrote. "We encourage public and civic engagement by all members of our University and we endorse the idea that the answer to speech that one does not like or finds offensive is more speech and not censorship."

Still, UIC faculty and staff sent a letter of concern to Amiridis Monday, saying they're worried about the safety of students and staff at the event.

"We are deeply distressed that this event threatens to create a hostile and physically dangerous environment to the students, staff, faculty and alumni who come out to express their opposition," the letter read. "We base this claim on what happened recently at another public higher education institution, Valdosta State in Georgia, where university security ejected a group of peaceful protestors, all of whom were students enrolled at the university, who were seeking to attend the rally being held in a campus venue. We are also concerned for the safety of the diverse staff and team of student employees who work at the UIC Pavilion, as well as of those in our community who have no choice but to traverse parts of the campus around the Pavilion going to and from work and class from the time the event doors open around three through and immediately after the full closure of the building."

Local politicians have also pledged to protest the rally, including Ald. Ray Lopez (15th Ward) and Congressman Luis Guitierrez. 

"When Mr. Trump arrives in Chicago, we'll be the first to welcome him, to greet him and then to send him back on his merry way because Chicago knows better," Lopez said. "Our people expect better and our country thankfully will get better."

Still, many supporters have said they plan to attend the event, despite the protests. 

Trump's campaign declined to comment on the planned protests and petition, saying it "does not comment on matters of security." Chicago police said Trump now has Secret Service protection and also declined to comment on the potential for increased security due to protests. 

Trump has been in Chicago headlines often in the past few weeks after he spoke out against the Ricketts family for making donations against his campaign.

“I hear the Rickets [sic] family, who own the Chicago Cubs, are secretly spending $'s against me. They better be careful, they have a lot to hide,” Trump tweeted last month.

Cubs Chairman Tom Ricketts addressed Trump’s comments shortly after, saying “it’s a little surreal when Donald Trump threatens your mom."

His Trump-branded building has also been the source of controversy in the city after it installed 20-foot-tall illuminated letters spelling the real estate mogul's last name at the hotel and residential tower at 401 N. Wabash Ave.

The Friday event falls on the same night as an Illinois Republican Party fundraiser, which fellow presidential hopeful Sen. Ted Cruz has said he will attend. Other Republican presidential candidates have also been invited. It's not clear if Trump will make an appearance after his rally is over. 

Other presidential candidates have also traveled to Illinois in recent weeks, with Hillary Clinton holding a “get out the vote” rally and fundraiser in the city last month and Bernie Sanders traveling to Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville for a rally Friday.

John Kasich will also hold a Palatine town hall Wednesday. 

Illinois’ presidential primary will be held March 15.

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