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Drexel University president calls for an end to the Pro-Palestinian encampment on campus

New pro-Palestinian encampment set up at Drexel University in Philadelphia
New pro-Palestinian encampment set up at Drexel University in Philadelphia 02:58

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) -- Drexel University's president said the pro-Palestinian encampment established on the college's Korman Quad Saturday night must end after the once peaceful demonstration turned disruptive. 

Drexel President John Fry cited serious concerns, including antisemitic speech to community members passing by on campus, in an updated message to the university community on Sunday. 

"This demonstration already has proved intolerably disruptive to normal University operations and has raised serious concerns about the conduct of some participants, including distressing reports and images of protestors subjecting passersby to antisemitic speech, signs and chants," the update reads in part.

Fry said about 40 to 60 people are still participating in the encampment as of Sunday afternoon. 

The Drexel Palestine Coalition, an organization participating in the encampment, said in a news release Saturday night that they are calling for a permanent and immediate cease-fire in Gaza.

The list of demands the Gaza Solidarity Encampment at Drexel is asking the university for includes "divestment from genocide and redistribution of funds toward investments in Palestine, disclosure of material and financial expenses and profits, defense against repression and censorship and an explicit declaration that we are witnessing a genocide," the news release from the coalition reads in part.

Drexel Palestine Coalition said the encampment is a response to the "Palestinian call for escalations in order to bring the ongoing fast-paced genocide in Gaza to a halt."

The members of the coalition said they're displeased with Drexel's complicity and "co-op programming with Lockheed Martin, investments in BlackRock, research and exchange programs with Israeli universities and real estate portfolio connections to Israel Bonds."

"I hope it is more fruitful, and more organizations around the area step up and also collab and put more efforts in the organization," Kendell Lewis, a Drexel student, said on Saturday. "Because we want to keep it peaceful at the same time. You don't want anyone to get hurt. We just want people to be heard."

There was a large presence of officers lining the barricades Saturday night and CBS News Philadelphia was told they're ready to move in if anything escalates.

Drexel's president released a statement later Saturday night evening that said in part, he understands this encampment raises concerns about ensuring everyone's safety and also that the university and police will not tolerate the destruction of property, the harassment, or intimidation of students, faculty, professional staff, or threatening behavior of any kind.

The president said buildings on campus are on lockdown and at the time there are no arrests.

Here is the full statement from Drexel's President John Fry:

"An estimated 75 pro-Palestinian protesters began to set up an encampment on campus at the Korman Quad. The protesters gathered at City Hall and marched to campus as part of Philly Palestine Coalition's Nakba Day march to call for a ceasefire in Gaza.

With campus demonstrations occurring across the country, the setting up on an encampment on Drexel's campus raises understandable concerns about ensuring everyone's safety. There have been many well-documented instances of hateful speech and intimidating behavior at other campus demonstrations. 

Drexel Police and Public Safety are closely monitoring this demonstration to ensure that it is peaceful and non-disruptive to normal operations, and that participants and passersby will behave respectfully toward one another. We will be prepared to respond quickly to any disruptive or threatening behavior by anyone. 

To underscore the point: We will not tolerate the destruction of property; the harassment or intimidation of our students, faculty or professional staff; or threatening behavior of any kind, including speech that is explicitly racist, antisemitic, or Islamophobic, that creates a hostile environment for members of our community based on race, color, national origin, religious affiliation, or shared ancestry. Nor will we allow anyone who is not a member of the Drexel community to trespass into our buildings and student residences. At the present time, our buildings are on lockdown and open only to those with clearance from Drexel's Public Safety.

 We will keep you apprised of developments as events unfold."

This comes less than 24 hours after 19 pro-Palestinian protesters were arrested on the University of Pennsylvania's campus after groups attempted to occupy the Fisher-Bennett Hall near 34th and Walnut streets.

A Penn spokesperson said seven Penn students were taken into custody and 12 were given citations for failure to disperse or failure to follow police commands. Those 12 were later released.

Seven more people are still in custody facing felony charges, including one person facing a charge of assaulting a police officer, the Penn spokesperson added.

Earlier this month on Friday, May 10, police were on Penn's College Green campus dismantling a pro-Palestinian protest encampment and made arrests. A university spokesperson noted that 33 people were arrested and released on the same day.

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