Activist organizations release statement expressing disappointment with town removing Jelani Day mural

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BLOOMINGTON, Ill. (WMBD) — The Bloomington-Normal chapters of Democratic Socialists of America and Black Lives Matter on Thursday released a joint statement decrying the removal of a mural of Jelani Day.

Day, 25, was found in the Illinois River on Sept. 4, but his body was not positively identified until Sept. 23.

“The problem surrounding the image is not so much that the town decided to remove the artwork
in an effort to preserve it like their notice claimed. The problem is the way in which the city
hastily removed the work and boarded up the wall as if sweeping Jelani’s story and who he was
under the rug,” read the statement.

The mural was taken down due to violations of Normal town code, said Cathy Oloffson, the town’s director of communications and community relations.

Olivia Butts, an organizer with Black Lives Matter, said it was disappointing to see it removed so quickly. She said she didn’t even get to see it.

“People need to realize this was the wrong call for our community,” she said. “This isn’t just any art. It’s a piece of art that was created to give people space to remember, mourn , come together as community, celebrate Jelani’s life and impact in community.”

Krystle Able, public relations officer at Democratic Socialists of America, said the swift removal demonstrates the town “lacking complete empathy for the ISU community.”

“They could have provided notice about that and given the community an opportunity to come out and see it where the artist originally created it and be part of our uptown Normal community and be able to come together over that shared experience,” she said.

Oloffson said the mural is destined for ISU but plans have not yet been finalized.

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