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Pro-Palestinian encampment is cleared at Drexel University

Philadelphia Police bicycle officers and Drexel University police at perimeter of pro-Palestinian encampment as protestors left Drexel early Thursday. (Alejandro A. Alvarez/The Philadelphia Inquirer/TNS)

In the early hours of Thursday morning, Drexel University and Philadelphia police arrived at the pro-Palestinian encampment at Drexel, asking protesters to evacuate the premises. Protesters left on their own accord.

Around 5:20 a.m., dozens of police officers on bikes arrived at the Korman Family Quad, as protesters hustled to gather their belongings — carrying with them multiple coolers, trash bags, and backpacks. A few folding chairs and tables, a plant, cardboard boxes, and bags were all that was left of the 35-tent Drexel encampment by 5:45 a.m.

In less than 30 minutes protesters abandoned the site and gathered briefly on the corner of 33rd and Market Streets to reorganize. The group told each other “good work, get out,” as the small crowd headed up 33rd Street raising a Palestinian flag and chanting “Free, free Palestine.”

Protesters did not immediately speak to a request for comment. “For now the encampment is closed,” an encampment spokesperson told The Inquirer.

Drexel police ordered the encampment to disband, with the Philadelphia Police Department on site to assist, according to Philadelphia Police Sgt. Eric Gripp. “The campers picked up their belongings for the most part and left by their own free will,” said Gripp.

No arrests were made.

“While Drexel University is committed to protecting the right of its community members to assemble peacefully and express their views, I have the responsibility and authority to regulate campus gatherings in order to ensure everyone’s safety and well-being and to fulfill our mission to educate our students,” Drexel’s president John A. Fry said in a statement Thursday morning.

“Since there will be increased police activity around Korman Quad at this time, I ask that you avoid the area between 32nd and 33rd Streets and Chestnut and Market Streets this morning until I send word that it has been secured.”

He called the encampment, which he said has large numbers of people who are not affiliated with Drexel, illegal.

“The language and chants coming from this demonstration, underscored by protesters’ repugnant “demands,” must now come to an end,” Fry said. “Moreover, our Public Safety personnel have been diverted from their work to serve and protect our entire Drexel community. That is unacceptable.”

Fry wrote that the university has repeatedly asked for the protesters to leave, but at least until Thursday morning, they have not.

“We are taking every precaution to ensure an orderly and peaceful evacuation of the encampment,” Fry said.

The encampment began on Saturday with about a dozen tents that protesters set up on the Korman Quad after a march from Center City commemorating the 74th anniversary of the Nakba, when Palestinians were expelled from Israel. It has since grown to contain about 35 tents and 75 people as of Wednesday night, police told The Inquirer Tuesday night.

Encampment members demanded Drexel call Israel’s siege in Gaza a genocide and offer amnesty for student activists. The protesters also were calling for the termination of Drexel’s Hillel and Chabad, two Jewish campus organizations for students, according to demands on their Instagram.

The demands are the latest in a wave of campus protests in the United States that are calling on universities to publicize their endowments and divest them from corporations profiting off the war.


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