Tension grows on UPenn campus as petition to end encampment delivered to officials

A petition was submitted to the University of Pennsylvania President’s Office a week after pro-Palestine protesters set up an encampment on the College Green.

More than 3,000 students, faculty and alumni signed the 103-page document that demands the encampment shut down.

"All members of our community deserve to access our facilities without fear of harassment or being subjected to discriminatory comments or threats. However, the encampment continues to persist," said Dr. Benjamin Abella, UPenn professor.

Supporters held Israeli and American flags as they marched on campus to College Hall to hand-deliver the petition.

"We really just want to return to the classroom without fear and without having to worry about protesters storming in like we saw at Columbia and really just wrapping up the semester and then working on building back our community," said Eyal Yakoby, UPenn student.

Commencement is scheduled for May 20. Some students wore their caps and gowns and took photos around campus on Thursday with protesters occupying the heart of the campus.

The pro-Palestine protesters call themselves the Freedom Camp and demand Penn disclose their spending, divest financial support to Israel and defend students’ rights to protest. They tell FOX 29 two meetings with the university so far have ended in a stalemate.

"We’re hoping the university comes to the negotiating table, so escalations don’t need to happen," said Nneka A. of the Freedom Camp. "The University kind of is saying take down your camp and we can talk, and then we’re just like the camp is the only leverage we have so unless you’re willing to see out our demand we’re going to be here."

There is a marked police presence on campus with Penn Police and local law enforcement. Police could be seen handing out zip ties near the demonstration.


Temple, Penn, Princeton join growing list of pro-Palestinian protests

Tensions are high on college campuses across the country and here, in Philadelphia, as students at Penn and Temple gather to protest, along with students at Princeton University.

Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner stopped by the encampment, again, for a third time.

"I’ve already gotten untrue information and I know that because I came here and I was able to double-check it in various different ways," said Krasner. "What I have seen over three different days of coming by has been peaceful."

Students on campus hope a resolution is met soon.

"I do really feel like both sides have every right to feel frustrated and overwhelmed about what’s happening in Israel and Gaza," said Cara Brand, UPenn employee.

A spokesperson for Penn said the Interim President was not releasing statements on Thursday. The last update from the interim president was on Friday April 26 when he said peaceful protests would be supported, but not any words or actions that violate Penn’s policy. A follow-up statement on that same day outlines some of the policy violations the university has documented.

The university released this update to the media on Thursday night:

"The University has been managing an encampment and surrounding protests on our campus for several days. Protest activity began to escalate overnight and has steadily continued, with large crowds in and around College Green today. We have reached out to the City of Philadelphia to ensure we have the necessary resources to keep our community safe. The Mayor’s Office has asked for more information, and we are providing it."