Pennsylvania senator and local officials support student-led encampment  | The Triangle

Pennsylvania senator and local officials support student-led encampment 

Photo by Kasey Shamis | The Triangle

The pro-Palestinian encampment led by students from multiple Philadelphia universities was instructed to disband on Friday evening according to a message from the University of Pennsylvania’s Interim President J. Larry Jameson. 

Following the protest that began on Temple University’s campus, proceeded to City Hall, Drexel University and stopped on Penn’s campus at Blanche P. Levy Park, a heavy presence of both protestors and police remained throughout Thursday, April 25 into Saturday, April 27. 

At approximately 2:15 p.m. on Friday, an individual spray-painted the words “Zios get f–t” on the Benjamin Franklin statue. Immediately after, it was covered with fabric and duct tape before Penn Safety and the Philadelphia Police Department set up steel barricades around the statue as Penn employees power-washed the graffiti away. A student in the encampment said that this was the act of a single individual and that the act did not represent the group’s values. 

“The vandalism of the statue in front of College Hall with antisemitic graffiti was especially reprehensible and will be investigated as a hate crime. I am deeply saddened and troubled that our many efforts to respectfully engage in discourse, support open expression, and create a community that is free of hate and inclusive for everyone have been ignored by those who choose to disrupt and intimidate, “ said Jameson in an email to the Penn community at 8:42 p.m. on Friday. 

He notified the protestors of their legal and policy violations, saying that if the encampment did not disband immediately, the protestors would face sanctions that follow the University’s “due process procedures that apply to students, faculty, and staff.”

Violations of University policies include credible reports of harassment and intimidation, according to Jameson. Penn’s guidelines on open expression affirm and support the “freedom of thought, inquiry, speech, and lawful assembly.” 

The University, described as a community of scholars, also supports the freedom to voice criticism of current practices and values that are upheld by the University. Jameson said the protestors also violated “state and federal law, including Title VI of the Civil Rights Act.”

Pennsylvania State Senator Nikil Saval arrived with New York State Senator Jabari Brisport at 4:30 p.m. on Friday, joining Pennsylvania State Representative Rick Krajewski in the encampment. 

“I cannot think about what’s good for children in America without also remembering what’s happening to children in Gaza. … Thousands murdered by this brutal genocidal war from the Israeli regime … paid for by our money, by our tax dollars, by your tuition,” said Sen. Brisport. 

Visiting Philadelphia for a conference, Sen. Brisport said that he knew he had to come to the campus in solidarity and thanked the students for standing against the genocide. 

“From Pennsylvania to Palestine we stand for peace and we stand for prosperity and against the occupation,” stated Sen. Brisport. 

A representative from Philadelphia Councilmember Jamie Gauthier’s office said that the Councilmember Gauthier supports the students and faculty’s right to protest and encouraged them to reach out if any concerns are raised regarding personal safety. Philadelphia councilmembers Kendra Brooks and Nicolas O’Rourke also sent their support and solidarity to the protestors, according to Rep. Krajewski.

Sen. Saval expressed that his office wants to ensure that Penn does not respond as other universities have, such as at his alma mater, Columbia University, in New York, with repression and violence

At a minimum, elected officials from every level of government should adopt an anti-war stance and support a lasting ceasefire, according to Sen. Saval. In the United States, elected officials have the power to speak out and have a moral responsibility to speak out against war and violence.

“To me, this is simple. You oppose this war,” said Sen. Saval. 

Throughout Friday afternoon, protestors engaged in various activities such as arts and crafts activities using chalk near the college green, chants and Muslim and Jewish prayers as the encampment continued into late Friday night and early Saturday morning. Supplies have been generously flowing into the camp from recent donations, said the Faculty for Justice in Palestine in a recent Instagram post