CHICAGO — Last week, Donald Trump said he was looking forward to his Friday rally in Chicago. But he may not get the warmest welcome if protesters have their way.
Following news of his rally last week, protesters started mobilizing. First, a Facebook event popped up and immediately had thousands of RSVPs. Organizers told those opposed to the GOP presidential frontrunner to show up at the UIC Pavilion, 525 S. Racine Ave., Friday and not only protest outside — but snag tickets and get inside.
In other cities, protesters have encountered violence at Trump rallies. But Chicago organizers hope a massive turnout will prevent this from happening:
Trump has been known to provoke and encourage violence towards protesters in the past. Past protests have seen individuals be spit on, kicked, hit, shoved, and assaulted in various other ways. With that being said, our strength will lie both in our numbers and our ability to show these Trump supporters a higher class of behavior. We do not condone and will condemn any physical contact with supporters attending the rally; please keep your hands and items to yourself. Our goal must be to show the attendees the empathy, acceptance, and love that we strive to see in the world. Keep any signs and chants aimed at Trump and his campaign, instead of individual supporters.
As of Monday morning, nearly 8,000 people vowed to show up to the event (though Facebook RSVPs for such events are typically higher than actual turnout). The stadium can hold up to 10,000 people, depending on how its configured, according to the UIC Pavilion website.
But a petition to cancel the rally altogether has even more support: 42,626 people have asked the University of Illinois at Chicago and the director of the Pavilion to cancel the event.
"Donald Trump is running on a platform of hate and dangerous intolerance," petitioner Jorge Mena Robles wrote. "It has no place in Chicago but especially not at an institution of higher learning."
Doug Ibendahl, an attorney and editor of Republican News Watch, said Trump has been breaking attendance records at venues across the nation, and he expects the candidate's appearance at UIC Friday to be no different.
While some Trump haters plan to register for the event and not show up, because there are no reserve seats, Ibendahl said they are "wasting their time."
"You gotta get there early. Thousands of people [won't be able] to get in," he said, whether they registered or not. "Protesters get in at every rally. If someone wants to demonstrate, they can certainly do that."
Representatives from Trump's campaign did not answer questions about admission to Friday's rally Monday.
On Monday, a number of Latino politicians including U.S. Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D), Ald. George Cardenas (12th), Ald. Raymond Lopez (15th), and Ald. Gilbert Villegas (36th) said they will stand among the protesters Friday outside of the UIC Pavilion.
Gutierrez said the protest will be peaceful and organized outside, but leaders do not plan to enter the pavilion. He said he certainly does understand why "young people" would want to enter the pavilion and demonstrate in a non-violent matter.
"There's going to be a lot of prejudice, a lot of hate, a lot discrimination, and yes, racism in that pavilion," he said. Chicago's leaders won't let Trump and spread his "misogynist," anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim anti-LGBT message, Guttierez said.
"We say no to all of that hatred and bigotry," he said.
UIC officials also did not answer questions, but in a letter to students and staff, Chancellor Michael Amiridis said it has been the university's standard policy for decades to rent available space to any political candidate when requested.
"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."
Ald. Danny Solis (25th), whose ward includes parts of the UIC campus, said that the Latino Caucus plans to send a letter to UIC leaders asking that "they not give racist individuals a platform" in the future. The longtime alderman will be marching alongside protesters Friday, he said. Trump's message is "outrageous," Solis said.
"It would be outrageous in any era of the United States, but especially now," he said.
Solis' youngest sister, Patti Solis Doyle, has served as a campaign manager to Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton. Ald. Solis is campaigning for Clinton in this race, he said.
But Trump supporters, including Ibehdahl, said that people who call Trump a racist "don't know what they are talking about."
"Trump has created more jobs for Hispanics, Blacks and women than all of those blowhards combined," he said. "They are angry, and they are jealous, and they are terrified that Trump is taking people off of their liberal plantation of voters."
Gutierrez, however, said Trump's threats are real to Chicago families.
"Walk through these streets of Pilsen and Little Village. Walk through Chinatown. Walk through our immigrant neighborhoods of the City of Chicago," Gutierrez said. "Donald Trump has said he is going to organize the deportation of 12 million people. Hundreds of thousands of them are our family members. They are our husbands and our wives and aunts and uncles... they are our neighbors and we love them. And we will stand up against that threat."
A spokesman for the Chicago Police said officers will be at the rally but referred all questions on security plans to the Secret Service.
"CPD will have a very visible presence," said police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi.
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump will hold a rally at UIC Pavilion on Friday. Thousands have RSVPed to a protest on Facebook. [dnainfo/Stephanie Lulay]
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