‘Jelani was somebody,’ More than 100 march in Bloomington calling for answers about Jelani Day’s death

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BLOOMINGTON, Ill. (WMBD) — Six weeks after authorities identified Jelani Day’s body in the Illinois River, there’s still a search for answers and a call for action.

The 25-year-old Illinois State University student vanished on Aug. 24, his car was found in Peru on Aug. 27 and his body was recovered from the Illinois River on Sept. 4.

But there’s still the lingering question of what happened to Jelani before his body ended up in the river.

“Please, all I’m asking, I just need information about my son,” Carmen Bolden Day, Jelani’s mother pleaded to a crowd of more than one hundred people Friday afternoon. “I just want to know what happened to him.”

Jelani’s loved ones, supporters, and even civil rights activists joined Day in her quest for answers Friday.

“Something is wrong in the city of Bloomington and we’re going to figure it out and we’re going to get justice for Jelani,” Jonathan Jackson, the national spokesperson for the Rainbow PUSH Coalition, said.

The crowd gathered at the Bloomington Police Department around noon and listened to Reverend Jesse Jackson speak before heading out to the streets. Jackson was joined by members of his Rainbow PUSH Coalition, and he insisted Day was murdered.

“Somebody’s going to go to jail for a long time for murdering Jelani,” Jackson said.

The crowd marched from the police department to ISU’s campus. Many had signs in hand, wore “Justice for Jelani” shirts, and elevated their voices to the sky chanting how they wanted justice and answers.

Day said she wanted more effort put into her son’s case. She said regardless of skin color, her son’s case deserves as much attention as anyone else’s.

“This is where it started,” Day said. “The Bloomington police should be on their job, they should be wanting to know what happened to Jelani as well, not because I done made all this noise but because Jelani was important. Jelani was somebody.”

Last month, Richard Ploch, the LaSalle County Coroner, released Jelani’s cause of death, citing drowning. Day said that information doesn’t add up and said her son didn’t do this to himself.

“He did not get in his car, he did not drive all the way to Peru and park his car, he did not get out of that car and go to a riverbank,” Day said. “He did not go to the riverbank and take off his clothes, and he did not put himself in no water.”

Last month, she mentioned wanting the state’s Attorney General, the FBI, and President Biden to get on board and help piece together what happened during Jelani’s last moments. On Friday, she also had a message for those she believes to be responsible.

“Whoever did this, woe be unto to you because you are going to be held accountable for what you did to my son,” Day said.

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