Pro-Hamas encampment at Drexel University pushes school into lockdown

The group responsible for the demonstration, DPC, is demanding that the school adopt the BDS movement against Israel and ‘terminate’ its Hillel and Chabad chapters.

By Dion J. Pierre, The Algemeiner

A “Gaza Solidarity Encampment” was erected suddenly at Drexel University in Philadelphia over the weekend, forcing school officials to lock down the campus to protect it from a flood of non-students who joined the demonstration.

“This demonstration has already proved intolerably disruptive to normal university operations and has raised serious concerns about the conduct of some participants, including distressing reports and images of protesters subjecting passersby to antisemitic speech, signs, and chants,” Drexel University president John Fry said on Sunday in a letter to the campus community.

“These kinds of hateful and intimidating acts must be condemned, and they cannot and will not be tolerated.”

Fry added that “it has become increasingly apparent that most of the encampment participants are outside individuals who are unaffiliated with Drexel.”

The group responsible for the demonstration, Drexel Palestine Coalition (DPC), is demanding that the school adopt the boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel and “terminate” its Hillel and Chabad chapters.

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“These organizations must be replaced by non-Zionist Jewish ones that in no way support the ongoing genocide, occupation, or apartheid in Palestine,” DPC said in a statement posted on social media.

DPC also wants the university’s police force to be abolished, amnesty granted to any protester charged with violating school rules, and a “60 percent” reduction in Fry’s salary, the savings of which would be invested “into local community efforts such as affordable housing, co-ops, land trusts — specifically towards Black Bottom residents — and the rebuilding of Palestinian institutions such as hospitals and universities.”

Footage of the demonstration shows some aggressive behavior, including the protesters’ dismantling police barricades. According to the latest reports, there have been no arrests.

“Hillel continues to be grateful to have partners on campus who believe that a university experience should be filled with opportunities to engage thoroughly and thoughtfully around issues where there is both deep investment and deep disagreement while recognizing that a prerequisite for any such conversation is a demonstrated commitment to the safety, well being, and shared sense of belonging of all of the students, faculty, and staff who call our university home,” Drexel Hillel said on Sunday in a statement issued about the encampment.

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The protesters’ demands are not the first assault on Jewish organizations at Drexel University this academic year.

Last month, the Raymond G. Perelman Center for Jewish Life was vandalized, with the culprits removing large channel letters spelling out Perelman’s name from a brick structure near the entrance to the building.

The disturbing act, which occurred amid an explosion of antisemitic hate crimes across the US, was filmed by surveillance cameras, but the persons responsible cannot yet be identified because they wore masks.

“It bears repeating that vandalizing centers of Jewish life and learning, defacing property with antisemitic graffiti, or ripping mezuzot off doorposts in residence halls does not constitute any legitimate form of protests,” Fry said at the time.

“Such acts are antisemitic in their intent to disrupt Jewish life and intimidate our Jewish communities, and have no place at Drexel or in our democratic society.”

Drexel University joins the list of over 100 schools where anti-Zionists have taken over sections of campus and refused to leave unless school administrators agree to condemn and boycott Israel.

Other demonstrations timed to coincide with the end of the academic year petered out earlier this month, but at Drexel, which uses the quarter system, classes do not end until June 8.

Because of this, the encampment there could last as many as three weeks.

In the interim, the school remains locked down, and on Monday, Fry ordered that all classes be conducted virtually.

“We will continue to provide updates regarding this situation or any changes to the university’s operations,” Fry said in Sunday’s letter. “I ask for everyone’s patience and understanding as we work toward ensuring that our campus can soon return to normal.”

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