Drexel encampment comes to an end as protesters pursue ‘strategic retreat’ | The Triangle

Drexel encampment comes to an end as protesters pursue ‘strategic retreat’

Drexel University’s six day long Gaza Solidarity Encampment quietly ended in the early hours of Thursday morning. 

Encampment members “launched a strategic retreat from campus” after Drexel Public Safety officers and the Philadelphia Police Department sought to clear out the encampment at Korman Quad.

According to their statement, encampment organizers “reject symbolic arrest” that “stretches resources thin without accomplishing our demand of full divestment.” For this reason, protesters willingly complied with police demands to disperse peacefully.

In a statement sent out to the University community shortly after, President John Fry acknowledged “This was a difficult decision, but protesters left us no other choice but to take action to clear the encampment ourselves.” 

Fry continued, “These demonstrations interfered with normal teaching and research activities, singled out members of our community for harassment and intimidation, and forced us to severely restrict access to the central part of Drexel’s campus.”

Drexel students woke up to a DrexelAlert message around 5:30 a.m. that warned of “Police activity in the area of Korman Quad,” similar to how the University of Pennsylvania Pro-Palestine encampment was disbanded on May 10 around 6:00 a.m. followed by 33 arrests.

From the start to the finish of the encampment, there was confusion on communications between organizers and university administration.

On Sunday, May 19, President Fry sent out an email that claimed “We have opened a line of communication to the protestors and will try to prevail on them to cease and desist from their unauthorized demonstration.” 

In response, the Drexel Palestine Coalition said on Instagram, “Your communication seems to have gotten lost along the way, seeing as no attempt has been made to contact the encampment to date.”  

On Tuesday, May 21, President Fry claimed that “Today, Chief Singleton’s offer of a meeting between members of the administration was refused by the protesters.” 

Finally, organizers claimed this morning that “Neither city police nor campus police delivered a warning to clear the encampment.” 

At the center of the controversy for the encampment was one of the protester demands, which elicited a strong response from President Fry and university community members. 

Listed under their BDS demands, the coalition called to “immediately terminate Drexel’s chapter of Hillel, a global zionist campus organization” and to “immediately terminate Drexel Chabad due to welcoming an ex-IOF soldier into the Drexel community.”

Furthermore, the coalition urged to “immediately terminate” Henry Israeli, the director of Jewish Studies at Drexel and Brett Altman, a member of Drexel’s Real Estate Advisory Council.     

In his statement sent out on Monday, May 20, President Fry wrote that “encampment protesters have created a hostile, confrontational environment by subjecting passersby to antisemitic speech and by issuing several “demands” that have unacceptably targeted individual members of our faculty and professional staff, a member of our Real Estate Advisory Committee, and two Jewish campus organizations.”

Following the encampment disbanding, Korman Quad is still barricaded off. Other green spaces on campus, like Lancaster Walk and areas around LeBow and Perelman Plaza, have fences blocking out the areas.

Students can now expect classes and student life to resume to full in-person operations, but Drexel IDs will be required to enter into all buildings. 

President Fry noted, however, that “the Korman Center will remain closed until further notice.”