Pro-Palestinian protesters leave after Drexel University decides to have police clear encampment

PHILADELPHIA — Protesters packed up their belongings and left a pro-Palestinian encampment at Drexel University on Thursday after the school announced a decision to let police clear the encampment.

University President John Fry said in a statement that he decided to have campus police and public safety officials join Philadelphia police in clearing the camp as peacefully as possible. News outlets reported that police gave protesters a warning to clear the camp and the demonstrators left. Protesters did not immediately comment.

Fry said the university is committed to protecting the right of community members to peacefully assemble and express their opinions, but he has the responsibility and authority to regulate campus gatherings to ensure safety and fulfill the mission to teach students.

“An unauthorized encampment allowing large numbers of people unaffiliated with Drexel onto our campus is illegal,” Fry said. “The language and chants emanating from this demonstration, underlined by the demonstrators’ abhorrent ‘demands’, must now stop.”

Protesters gathered their belongings as dozens of officers arrived on bicycles around 5:20 a.m., but in less than half an hour, only a few items remained on the Korman Family Quad where the 35-tent encampment had been, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported.

“The campers mostly packed up their belongings and left of their own free will,” said Philadelphia Police Sgt. said Eric Gripp.

The camp continued to exist despite Fry’s threat earlier this week to have the camp evacuated. Fry said Tuesday that classes would be held virtually for a third day on Wednesday after administrators tried to open a line of communication with the protesters but were rebuffed. News media reported that the university announced Wednesday evening that the campus would return to normal operations on Thursday.

In his statement early Thursday, Fry said previous requests for protesters to disperse had been ignored, but he asked Drexel affiliates to leave the encampment so police could “escort any remaining offenders from our campus.”

A wave of pro-Palestinian tent encampments on campuses has led to more than 3,000 arrests across the country.

On Thursday, leaders of Northwestern University and Rutgers University are expected to testify at a House Committee on Education and the Workforce hearing about concessions they made to pro-Palestinian protesters to end demonstrations on their campuses. The chancellor of the University of California, Los Angeles, is also scheduled to appear in a series of hearings that would examine how universities have responded to the protests and accusations of anti-Semitism.