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Supporters of Jelani Day march in Bloomington-Normal to demand answers

Jesse Jackson
Sarah Nardi
The Rev. Jesse Jackson, who is recovering from a fall, led a march for Jelani Day on Friday, starting at Bloomington Police headquarters.

The Rev. Jesse Jackson and members of his Rainbow PUSH Coalition assembled in Bloomington on Friday to lead a second march in support of Jelani Day. The coalition organized a similar event in Peru, Ill., last month.

Friday's march began with a press conference in front of the Bloomington Police Department, where Jackson and his surrogates repeated calls for FBI oversight in the case. Day, an Illinois State University graduate student, was found dead in the Illinois River in Peru on Sept. 4 following a disappearance.

Golf cart driving
Sarah Nardi
Friday's march was scheduled to go from Bloomington Police HQ to the Illinois State University campus, where Jelani Day was a graduate student.

Authorities say he drowned and there were no signs of trauma on his body before he died. Day’s family and their supporters have rejected theories about suicide or self-harm and believe he was murdered. They’ve called for the FBI or State Police to take over the case.

The FBI is assisting in the investigation but has previously told local authorities that it "will not take over the lead of this case" despite requests to do so, according to Peru Police Chief Bob Pyzska. Peru is part of a multijurisdictional unit that is investigating the circumstances surrounding Day’s death. The unit includes investigators from Bloomington.

Speaking to the crowd Friday, Day's mother, Carmen Bolden Day, demanded that Bloomington Police redouble their efforts to figure out what happened to her son.

“This is where it started,” said Bolden Day. “And, so, the Bloomington police should be on their jobs. They should be wanting to know what happened to Jelani as well.”

Bolden Day reminded the crowd that her son was last seen at Beyond/Hello in Bloomington. More than that, she said, he lived in Bloomington, after Bolden Day urged her son to attend ISU instead of a school that would’ve taken him further away from his family home in Danville.

“They should be wanting to know what happened to Jelani as well,” Bolden Day said of the Bloomington police. “Not because I done made all this noise,” she said, her voice breaking. “But because Jelani was important.”

Bloomington Mayor Mboka Mwilambwe also addressed the crowd.

“The Bloomington Police Department has been involved from the very beginning of this case in a very significant way and will continue to be until we’re able to find answers,” said Mwilambwe.

His remarks were met with mild applause.

Sarah Nardi is a correspondent at WGLT. She rejoined the station in 2024.