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May 23, 2024

Pro-Palestine protesters depart Drexel encampment following police order

A group of demonstrators called their exit a 'strategic retreat,' saying they succeeded in disrupting the university. Their demands – which President John Fry labeled 'repugnant' – went unmet.

Demonstrations Drexel University
Drexel Palestine Encampment Chris Compendio/PhillyVoice

The pro-Palestinian encampment at Drexel University disbanded Thursday morning after police ordered protesters to vacate. The photo above shows the demonstration on Tuesday.

Drexel University police officers disbanded the encampment of pro-Palestine protesters in the Korman Quad area on campus early Thursday morning. No arrests were made.

Drexel police arrived at the quad around 5 a.m. and informed the demonstrators that their presence was unauthorized, according to the university. Philadelphia police were on site to provide support. 

MORE: Lawsuits claim dozens of children were abused at Pa. juvenile detention facilities

Philly Police did not immediately respond to a request for comment on their role in disbanding the encampment.

Protesters left the quad with their belongings on their own accord within 15 to 20 minutes, according to police. A group of protesters gathered at 33rd and Market streets to demonstrate shortly afterward, the Inquirer reported.

The Drexel Palestine Coalition called the move to leave the encampment a "strategic retreat."

"At the first sight of staging, evacuation protocols were activated to ensure safe passage of all people and resources out of the liberated zone," the organization said in an emailed statement.

Drexel President John Fry announced plans to disband the encampment "as peacefully as possible" in an early Thursday morning message to Drexel staffers and students.

"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," Fry wrote.

 A follow-up message from Fry stated that Korman Quad will remain closed until further notice, and IDs are needed to enter campus buildings. "This was a difficult decision, but protesters left us no other choice but to take action to clear the encampment ourselves," Fry wrote.

Drexel Encampment entranceChris Compendio/PhillyVoice

The entrance of the pro-Palestinian encampment at Drexel University labeled the area as an “Anti-Genocide Zone” and marked 76 years after the Nakba. The picture above was taken on Tuesday.

Fry described the protesters' demands as "repugnant" and "antisemitic. Earlier this week, the Drexel Palestine Coalition listed demands on social media. 

They included the disclosure and divestment of the university's finances related to Israel and the war in Gaza, a statement from the university supporting a ceasefire in Gaza, protections for student protesters, the removal of certain faculty and advisory board members and the replacement of Jewish organizations Hillel and Chabad with "non-zionist Jewish ones."

Drexel University previously had locked down campus buildings and temporarily switched to remote learning in response to the encampment. It resumed normal operations on Tuesday. The Drexel Palestine Coalition criticized Fry's statements and actions. 

"We succeeded in our aim to disrupt — a university-wide lockdown imposed by cowardly leadership and an excessive police presence drained university resources for six days," the coalition's statement read. "John Fry's pathological lying habit was transparent in his ego-driven university-wide communications with inconsistent timelines. We have no confidence in his leadership."

The pro-Palestine encampment in Drexel had dubbed itself "Little Gaza" and marked the 76th anniversary of the Nakba, when Palestinians were displaced from their homes in 1948. It began Saturday and lasted six days. 

"This is a marathon, not a sprint," read the Drexel Palestine Coalition's statement.