Philadelphia/ Crime & Emergencies
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Published on May 19, 2024
19 Arrested Amid Protester Clashes and Occupation Attempt at University of Pennsylvania Source: Google Street View

Violence erupted on the campus of the University of Pennsylvania as pro-Palestinian protesters attempted to occupy Fisher-Bennett Hall, resulting in the arrest of 19 individuals. Philadelphia police and Penn officers were involved in skirmishes during an occupation attempt of the said hall Friday night, according to 6abc.

As the demonstrators marched from the campus to the Penn Museum and then to Franklin Field, a university spokesperson reported that "lock-picking tools and homemade metal shields fashioned from oil drums" were found in the Fisher-Bennett Hall. Furthermore, seven protesters were taken into custody, facing felony charges, including one for assaulting a police officer, while twelve received citations for failing to follow police commands and later released, according to The Daily Pennsylvanian.

The Penn Gaza Solidarity group, as mentioned by CBS Philadelphia, stated their motives included the university's refusal to disclose investments and demands for divestment from Israeli companies. They also sought protections for pro-Palestine protesters. The activists named the building "Refaat Alareer Hall," in honor of the deceased Palestinian poet.

The situation intensified following the clearing of a pro-Palestinian encampment on College Green a week prior. A Penn spokesperson described in an email that they found the building's exit doors "secured with zip-ties, barbed wire, and barricaded with metal chairs and desks, and the windows were covered over with newspaper and cardboard." Around 10:15 p.m., after the protestors had vacated the area, the police still remained on the scene, and later a group of approximately 100 pro-Palestinian demonstrators gathered, chanting in the middle of 34th Street, linking arms nearby, as the police watched over the situation.

The larger narrative was overshadowed by incidents of violence and drastic measures used by protestors, suggesting a deepening of the divide between pro-Palestinian activists and university administration. After the unrest, the campus returned to normalcy with commencement events continuing as planned, though the tense atmosphere from the previous night lingered in air around Fisher-Bennett Hall, now restored to order but marked by an evening of discord.