Illinois Race Weekend pushes forward while protests continue on UI campus

URBANA, Ill. (WCIA) — The Christie Clinic Illinois Race Weekend director knows it’s a miracle runners could take to the race route on Saturday afternoon, even after many police officers were called to protests on the U of I campus the night before.

First, runners were worried about wet weather raining on their parade. That quickly took a turn when pro-Palestine protests turned into chaos near the Alma Mater. WCIA was there, and continues to follow the encampments set up on the Main Quad during the week.

University policy is not stopping protesters. Tents, tarps and banners continue to fill the space in front of Foellinger Auditorium on Monday. There is no law enforcement out, but the U of I is reminding students that breaking the rules could lead to arrests or suspension.

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Monday has been calm, but Friday’s uncertainty impacted the entire C-U community. Jan Seeley, the race weekend director, said 30 police officers were pulled away from their 5K spots and over to the protests instead.

That’s ultimately why Friday’s race was canceled, they had no available officers. Seeley said they were ready to cancel Saturday’s races too, she had the email drafted and ready to go.

Her team needed 64 officers around the route, many of whom were at the demonstration instead.

The Champaign police chief helped them get connected to the Illinois State Police, who brought in more than 40 officers.

They ended up with 90 total, 64 more than were needed. That was the main reason the marathon could take off. It’s something Seeley and her team have been preparing for for over a year.

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“I’m going to get teary. No words,” she described. “It would’ve been an awful mark on Champaign-Urbana. Probably would’ve put us out of business. We don’t have race insurance, we can’t return $700,000 in registration fees.”

She compared the gut-wrenching feeling to as if a dog had died.

“And then two hours later we were celebrating Christmas Day or something like that,” she went on to say.

Regarding the 5K that was canceled, Seeley said it would be rescheduled for a later date. 4,300 people were signed up to run Friday night. If you weren’t signed up the first time, you’ll be able to sign up for the new date.

Regarding the protests on campus, WCIA asked the university if any more negotiation efforts will take place. Robin Kaler, the spokesperson, said a meeting with student protestors and administrators was scheduled for Monday only if policies were followed.

Tents were not removed, and the meeting was since canceled.

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