Protesters gather at Drexel University campus, set up new encampment

Protesters gather at Drexel University campus, set up new encampment
Protesters gather at Drexel University campus, set up new encampment

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- Pro-Palestinian protesters in Philadelphia set up an encampment on Drexel University's campus Saturday evening.

It happened at approximately 7 p.m. after hundreds of demonstrators gathered at City Hall as part of the Philly Palestine Coalition's Nakba Day march to call for a ceasefire in Gaza.

At that time, roughly 75 protesters with the Drexel Palestine Coalition marched to campus to set up handfuls of tents.

Just before 9 p.m., police with shields and riot gear were seen moving closer to the campus protesters. Officers were later seen setting up barricades and perimeters around the encampment.

The 'Gaza Solidarity Encampment' moved in on the university's Korman Quad, according to protest organizers.

Protesters are asking Drexel to divest from any companies or partnerships negatively impacting Palestinians, to redistribute its financial profits to support the Palestinian economy and rebuild Gaza, and to disclose its investments.

They are also asking that Drexel defend advocacy and activism for Palestine.

In a statement, protest organizers wrote in part, "We call on all people of conscience to join us on Korman Quad. We call on people across the world to rise up in solidarity and continue to #EscalateforGaza. We call for a permanent and immediate ceasefire and an end to the occupation."

Drexel University President John Fry released part of the following statement in response:

"With campus demonstrations occurring across the country, the setting up an encampment on Drexel's campus raises understandable concerns about ensuring everyone's safety. There have been many well-documented instances of hateful speech and intimidating behavior at other campus demonstrations.

Drexel Police and Public Safety are closely monitoring this demonstration to ensure that it is peaceful and non-disruptive to normal operations, and that participants and passersby will behave respectfully toward one another. We will be prepared to respond quickly to any disruptive or threatening behavior by anyone against anyone.

To underscore the point: We will not tolerate the destruction of property; the harassment or intimidation of our students, faculty or professional staff; or threatening behavior of any kind, including speech that is explicitly racist, antisemitic, or Islamophobic, that creates a hostile environment for members of our community based on race, color, national origin, religious affiliation, or shared ancestry. Nor will we allow anyone who is not a member of the Drexel community to trespass into our buildings and student residences. At the present time, our buildings are on lockdown and open only to those with clearance from Drexel's Public Safety."

As of 11 p.m., the protest on campus remained calm and peaceful. Drexel officials say any major updates will be posted on the school's social media platforms.

This encampment comes after 19 protesters were arrested Friday night during a demonstration on the University of Pennsylvania campus.

Chopper 6 was overhead as Philadelphia police swarmed Penn and scuffled with pro-Palestinian demonstrators in the city's University City section.

Philadelphia police arrest several protesters during demonstration at Penn

Members of the Penn Gaza Solidarity group said they were planning to occupy the Fisher-Bennett Hall.

A Penn spokesperson said a group of individuals entered the hall and attempted to occupy it before police arrived.

According to the university, seven of the 19 people arrested were Penn students.

Protesters said they decided to take over Fisher Bennett Hall because Penn administrators failed to meet their demands and refused to negotiate in good faith.