Recent UI graduate charged with hate crime against Jewish students


Lika Lezhava

The Students for Justice in Palestine protest outside of the Hillel on April 18. A UI graduate has been charged with committing a hate crime for allegedly throwing a rock at students on the patio of the Hillel during the protest.

By Willie Cui, News Editor

On Tuesday, a recent University graduate was charged with committing a hate crime during a protest on the evening of April 18 in front of the Illini Hillel, a center for Jewish students on campus. The crime is considered a class 3 felony, and penalties range from probation to two to five years in prison.

According to the charging document, Sayed A. Quraishi, a 23-year-old who graduated from the University this spring, allegedly “threw a rock in the direction of a group of Jewish students on the outside patio of the Hillel Center” during a protest, which alarmed students and staff at the Illini Hillel. 

The protest was organized by the Students for Justice in Palestine RSO in response to an Israeli police raid of the Al-Aqsa Mosque on April 15, which occurred during Ramadan. 

On the day of the demonstration, protesters marched all the way from Foellinger Auditorium to the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Diversity, Equity & Inclusion, and then to the Illini Hillel and the Swanlund Administration Building. The march concluded at Alma Mater.

During the protest, the Illini Hillel offered space on its rooftop patio for students who felt unsafe, according to Erez Cohen, executive director of the Illini Hillel.

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“We offered students to come in the Hillel in a safe space on our deck with snacks and a little bit of music — kind of lowering the level of stress that came with this rally,” Cohen said in an interview shortly after the protest. 

At one point, someone on the rooftop patio raised the volume of their music while a protester was in the middle of giving a speech, leading to a brief verbal exchange between the two groups.

Shortly after the protesters left the Illini Hillel, Cohen said he was “informed that on their way out someone threw something at the building,” and the Hillel would need to check their security cameras as a result.

A few days later, April 20, “a member of the Illini Hillel called the Champaign Police Department to report an incident that happened during the April 18 event,” according to Patrick Wade, communications director for the University Police Department.

Wade noted that the case was initially taken up by CPD because it occurred on private property. However, since the case involved “University community members,” it was then transferred to UIPD.

“So we picked up the investigation,” Wade said. “And after reviewing security camera footage and talking to witnesses and the person who was eventually issued a notice to appear in court, we determined that that person picked up a rock from the side of the sidewalk and threw it toward the Illini Hillel.”

According to Wade, UIPD issued a notice to appear to Quraishi on May 12 and forwarded the incident report to the Office of the State’s Attorney for Champaign County who decided to pursue hate crime charges this week. 

Appearing in court this Tuesday, Quraishi was released on his own recognizance and was instructed to return to court next Tuesday with an attorney.


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