Drexel Socialists held a rally in Perelman Plaza with the primary goal of pressuring Drexel University administration to declare the university a sanctuary campus May 1.
“Come stand with us and be a part of history. Join our rally and stand in solidarity with your undocumented classmates, friends and colleagues to declare Drexel a Sanctuary Campus,” a flyer for the event read.
The demands are a response to a Dec. 9, 2016 message from Drexel president, John A. Fry to students and faculty. The main points of the message were regarding Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals and the possibility of a repeal or suspension of the DACA program.
DACA allows undocumented immigrants who entered the country as minors to receive renewable, two-year deferred action periods, providing they produce the proper paperwork and documentation.
“DACA is a sensible, humane and helpful program, and Drexel fully supports it. Moreover, if DACA is suspended or repealed, the University will support our undocumented students to the fullest extent of the law,” the email read.
However, Fry declined to label Drexel a sanctuary campus.
“Such a declaration may have some appeal, but the concept has no basis in law and the University has no authority to bar enforcement of the nation’s immigration laws on its campus. And by making it clear that we respect the rule of law, the University is more likely to receive a good hearing in the event that DACA comes under review again,” the email continued.
Monday’s rally started at 11 a.m. and had a few dozen participants including students and some faculty members. Rallygoers held signs and participated in chants while speakers shared personal experiences intermittently.
“This is way more than just Drexel Socialists,” Amy Gottsegen, a member of Drexel Socialists and an organizer of the event, remarked of the turnout.
Drexel Police Department had a presence at the event but didn’t interfere unless rallygoers and bystanders started to argue. Gottsegen said that the club didn’t notify DPD about the event but instead that DPD called them.
There were some examples of anti-police sentiment at the event.
“F— Police! F— Trump,” the rallygoers yelled at one point.
Molly Cuka, a third-year civil engineering student at Drexel and an onlooker to the event, vocalized concerns about the flyer handed out by Drexel Socialists at the event.
“I’m not anti-immigrant, I’m pro-controlled immigration. I don’t believe open borders is compatible with the current welfare state,” she said.
At one point, onlookers also began to chant “Build the wall.”
“Education is a right, not just for the rich and white” and “No walls, no registry, f— white supremacy” were also chanted by participants at the Drexel rally.
Around noon, a group of rallygoers from the University of Pennsylvania joined the Drexel group, and the groups marched to the larger rally at City Hall. The lack of a contract for public school teachers was one of the main themes of the larger protest, and an estimated 1,000 Philadelphia school teachers were reported absent by Philadelphia School District.
Also present at the event were groups protesting for immigrant rights, and a group wearing all black and holding signs saying “Make the Guillotine Red Again” and “Smash the State, America was Never Great.”
The rally made its way from the west side of City Hall to the east side, marching in the street. Upon arrival, the protesters danced to music and rallied until 12:50 p.m., when speakers began to address the crowd.
Protections for undocumented immigrants and opposition to Donald Trump’s administration were the main issues of concern for rallygoers in Center City as well.
“We will not allow ICE, we will not allow Trump, we will not allow a system bent on genocide to take our comrades,” Shani Akilah, a member of Black and Brown Workers Collective, said to the crowd according to CBS News. “This is a new day,” she continued.
As for Drexel’s status, the university has not responded to the rally on campus Monday or made any indication that they will declare themselves a sanctuary campus in the future.