UI students protest Chief Illiniwek at Homecoming Parade
URBANA, Ill. (WCCU) —
It is Homecoming week at the University of Illinois and on Friday evening the university kicked it off with a parade, but not everyone was marching in school spirit.
Several students gathered to boycott the Homecoming parade after the former mascot, Chief Illiniwek, marched in the event.
"Native Americans do not want it and I don't want it because it is disrespectful,” student protesters said during the gathering before the parade.
The Illinois Student Government gathered at the Native American House an hour before the parade making posters and signs with messages denouncing the Chief’s appearance.
"My question to the university would be would they turn a blind eye if white students were walking around in blackface and would they turn a blind eye if students were walking around in white hoods that resembled the Klan?” vice president of the Illinois Student Government, Joey Domanski said. “I mean it's the same racist statement, the Chief falls in that category as the other two.”
The Honor the Chief Society marched in the parade with a man in a headdress-wearing Native American cultural clothing symbolizing the university's former mascot.
"We're just here to educate students on campus and to honor the proud history of Illinois,” board member of the Honor the Chief Society, Ivan Dozier said. “This is a Homecoming event and a lot of alums are here and we just want to make sure that the wishes of all the alums are represented here.”
In a statement, university spokesperson Robin Kaler said, “Parade participation is open to entries from the entire community, we cannot restrict participation based on the content or message of the entries without violating the rights of free speech.”
The student protesters said they hope the university will ban the Chief’s appearance in future Homecoming parades.