A seminar expected to draw dozens of illegal immigration foes and perhaps hundreds of protesters to Crystal Lake on Saturday is in jeopardy after the hotel hosting the event told its sponsor it is no longer welcome.
The decision by the Crystal Lake Holiday Inn has left the Illinois Minuteman Project scrambling to find an alternate location to host Allen County, Ohio, Sheriff Dan Beck, whose efforts to deport people who are in the country unlawfully has earned him national attention.
"I'm disturbed by the whole thing," Minuteman Director Rosanna Pulido said Wednesday. "We're not bringing in a lunatic. We're bringing in a sheriff."
Pulido said her organization received an e-mail from Holiday Inn attorneys Tuesday afternoon announcing their decision to cancel her conference room reservation. The e-mail, Pulido said, indicated the decision was made after Crystal Lake police informed the hotel it would be asked to reimburse the city $3,000 or more for additional police protection.
Hotel General Manager Ed Sweet could not be reached for comment.
Pulido said she does not blame the Holiday Inn for its decision, saying she understands its hesitancy about paying for added security. Instead, she blames Crystal Lake authorities for making the hotel responsible for those costs.
"I feel there's been government interference," she said.
But Crystal Lake Police Chief David Linder said the city's decision to pass along its costs is standard policy. The department has sought and received similar reimbursement for other events such as last year's Gay Games rowing competition on Crystal Lake.
For safety reasons Linder said he could not disclose his department's plans for Saturday's event, but he confirmed that the Holiday Inn was told it could be asked to reimburse the city as much as $3,000.
"Like any event that comes in, we take a look at what needs to happen to make it safe," he said. "If the Holiday Inn is going to have this event, we're going to have to put additional people out there to make sure everyone out there is safe and to protect their rights."
Although the event is expected to draw about 100 Minuteman supporters to the Holiday Inn itself, at least three groups are expected to conduct protests outside the hotel, raising concerns about crowd management and public safety.
Pulido said the Holiday Inn did not ask her organization to pay for the additional police services, nor does she believe her group should be responsible for those costs.
"We've had events all over, and we've never been asked to incur the costs," she said. "We're not causing trouble."
Lawyers for the Minuteman Project Wednesday were crafting a response to the hotel's attorneys. But in the meantime, Pulido said, the group is looking feverishly for another site in the Crystal Lake area.
"We're looking for someone to say, 'You're welcome here,'" she said. "A park, a parking lot, a building, a cornfield. We'll take anything."