CHICAGO — Teachers at the University of Illinois at Chicago say the presence of Donald Trump and his supporters at the UIC Pavilion Friday will create a "physically dangerous" environment for students and staff.
In a letter to UIC Chancellor Michael Amiridis, a group of 180 UIC professors and staff members write that they value free speech, but the alarm behind Trump's visit extends to more than opposition to political positions.
"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 reads. "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."
The professors are also concerned for the safety of the UIC Pavilion's diverse staff of student employees and others "who have no choice but to traverse parts of the campus around the Pavilion going to and from work and class," according to the letter.
UIC officials have not responded to multiple requests for their security plans as of Tuesday. On Monday, a spokesman for the Chicago Police Department 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.
In a letter to students and staff, Chancellor 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."
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 front-runner 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.
As of Tuesday morning, nearly 8,600 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.
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.
For more neighborhood news, listen to DNAinfo Radio here: