VIDEO: Parade halted, officer assaulted during protest
An “alternative event” hosted by the University of Illinois Student Government (ISG) culminated in protesters halting last weekend’s homecoming parade and apparently assaulting a police officer.
The ISG had voted to boycott the 2017 homecoming parade and host the “alternative event” as a protest against the inclusion of a former mascot that many consider offensive to Native Americans.
Removed as the official university symbol in 2007, Chief Illiniwek remains a controversial subject on the Urbana-Champaign campus, but a group called the Honor the Chief Society continues to march in the homecoming parade. In response to the ISG boycott, university spokesperson Robin Kaler explained that “Parade participation is open to entries from the entire community,” and that the university “cannot restrict participation based on the content or message of the entries without violating the rights of free speech.”
Harassment of pro-Chief Illiniwek sentiment began two days before the parade, when an alleged university employee disrupted a College Republicans event and vandalized property. The university has said that it is aware of the incident, but has not announced any disciplinary actions against Angela King.
The ISG publicly advertised the protest with a coalition of student groups including the Illini Democrats, MEChA de UIUC, Black Students for Revolution, the Harry Potter Alliance, and 13 other organizations.
After gathering in a central location, more than 100 protesters marched across campus to meet the parade caravan, as shown in a live-stream video on the official ISG Facebook page titled #NotOurMascot.
“ISG and the protesters crossed the line as they blocked the road and endangered children and civilians witnessing the parade,” Omar Cruz, the current unofficial Chief Illiniwek, told Campus Reform.
“I am a Latino undocumented student here at the university,” he noted. “Surprisingly, many did not know I was portraying the Chief at the parade…I saw many familiar faces and recalled some of the names I’ve been called such as a ‘white washed spik’ and a ‘backstabber to my community’.”
According to video of the incident obtained by Campus Reform, protesters led by ISG President Raneem Shamseldin obstruct the parade route and block the car of Chancellor Robert Jones, after which a protester shoves a UI Police Officer onto the hood of Jones’s vehicle before throwing punches (~0:30 - 0:40).
Shamseldin, seen in the video about five feet away from the car, told Campus Reform she “did not see it.” Later, a clash between the mob and Honor the Chief Society led to grabbing, pushing, and shoving of parade participants (~2:15-2:50).
When asked if the student government should be held responsible, Shamseldin said, “We told them what they are allowed and not allowed to do,” insisting that “we are not responsible for any violence.”
However, when asked if other campus groups should be held responsible for hosting a violent event she conceded that “groups hosting events are partially responsible,” but asserted that “since nothing as of now amounted to a criminal offense we cannot address responsibility” for the disruption of the homecoming parade.
Three police reports have been made and the Illini Corvette Club is preparing to file another for damages to the car carrying Chancellor Jones.
Campus Reform reported video of the officer being assaulted to the University of Illinois Police Department, but UIPD Communications Director Patrick Wade responded only that “We do not have additional information on these events at this time.”
The university administration and student government have also remained silent, making no official statement on the incident.
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