Students and professors at the University of Illinois at Chicago are freaking out because Donald Trump is scheduled to appear on Friday evening on campus at the UIC Pavilion.
A petition demanding that officials at the taxpayer-funded school cancel the Trump campaign event has accumulated nearly 50,000 signatures.
Almost 10,000 Facebook users have pledged to show up to protest Trump’s Chicago rally.
“Donald Trump is running on a platform of hate and dangerous intolerance,” the Moveon.org petition states. “It 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 references to violent attacks relate to previous Trump rallies held on college campuses. At Virginia Commonwealth University, protesting students say Trump supporters shoved them around and spat at them. At Georgia’s Valdosta State University, a group of 30 black students say they were ejected from a Trump gathering when they attempted to protest peacefully.
The petition also criticizes Trump for his call for a moratorium on Muslims entering the United States and for his refusal to condemn the support of former Ku Klux Klan Grand Wizard David Duke during a CNN interview.
“Trump is a danger and so are his events,” the petition concludes. “UIC should not be host to them.”
The Facebook page publicizing the demonstration against Trump explains that the protest is “dedicated to gathering a large group of people regardless of race, gender, religion, sexuality, political affiliation, etc. to unite in solidarity” against Trump.
The plan is to meet on a quad on University of Illinois at Chicago campus and then march over to the UIC Pavilion, a 9,500-seat multipurpose arena.
“The safety of everyone either at the rally or part of our efforts is our top priority,” the Facebook statement assures.
Officials at UIC have said the Trump rally will go on as scheduled.
“It has been our standard practice for decades to rent available space on campus to any political candidate when requested,” UIC chancellor Michael Amiridis explained in a statement sent to students this weekend. “As a result, we have a long history of campaign events on campus, and no legal basis to exclude any candidate because of the views he or she expresses.”
Amiridis also noted that extra security will surely be in place. Presumably, that means a strong presence by both campus cops and Chicago police officers.
The Chicago Police Department has refused to announce its security plan, according to Inside Higher Ed.
A group of professors and staffers at UIC has published an open letter expressing safety concerns.
“We value free speech and the right to assemble and we appreciate the university’s commitment to those constitutionally protected rights,” the letter begins. However, it also warns: “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 says professors are also “concerned by consistent reports that Trump supporters across the country have used racial slurs and attacked individuals who are members of groups that are represented, valued, and guaranteed respect and safety on our campus.”
Jennifer Brier, a gender and women’s studies professor at UIC, spoke to Inside Higher Ed about faculty concerns.
“I’m worried that whatever security forces or personnel or agencies — Secret Service or somebody else — won’t be working to protect the safety of our students, and if they’re told to eject people from a protest, I’m worried that that is going to happen, and that’s a complete contradiction to the mission of this university,” Brier said.
Tickets for the Trump rally at the University of Illinois at Chicago warn that “no posters, banners or signs may be brought into the event.”