After SGA failed to kick Jeff Sessions off campus, protesters staged a walk out.
Before Jeff Sessions began his speech on Feb. 1, student protesters staged a walk out to protest his presence on campus.
Outraged students occupied the hallway of the venue to chant pre-approved slogans in an attempt to disrupt the event.
On Feb. 1, the Illini Republicans and Young Americans for Freedom (YAF) hosted former US Attorney General and Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions for an event at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.
Leading up to the event, the Illinois student government passed a resolution insisting the event be “taken off-campus”. The resolution claimed that “many Black students and students of other marginalized identities view hosting Mr. Sessions on-campus as inappropriate and insensitive.”
However, the resolution was unsuccessful in removing the event from campus. In a YAF Facebook post, captioned “they might not like freedom of speech, but were here,” protesters are shown walking out of the auditorium. A tweet by Kara Zupkus includes a printout of the chants used by protesters in a video included in another YAF Facebook post.
During the recorded student government meeting where resolution was passed—which began with a land acknowledgment monologue—one of the authors, Garrett Forest, compared Sessions to Robert E. Lee and Jefferson Davis, stating that all three men have “stood on the wrong side of history.”
The Illini Republicans responded with a statement on their Facebook page saying it was “inappropriate of the [Illinois Student Government] to request the event be relocated” and comparing Sessions to Confederate leaders “trivializes racism and highlights their complete lack of understanding of its history in the United States.”
The main complaint levied against the event in the student government meeting was that it was “insensitive to host [Sessions] during black history month, especially on the first day”. When pushed on this point, one of the authors of the resolution, Josh Small, conceded that even if the event was not in February, they would “still be opposing the event” and that “having him at all on-campus… is completely inappropriate”.
While the resolution itself focused on racism allegations against Sessions, Shifra, a student present at the next student government meeting—who wished to be referred to by “they/them” pronouns—voiced other concerns, saying, “I think that it was very good we condemned it because he said things that are very counterintuitive to the things that many of of us senators believe such as that masks don’t work.”
The University of Illinois Urbana-Champagne, Illini Republicans, and the UI Senate were contacted for comment. This article will be updated accordingly.