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Pro-Palestinian encampment at Drexel University clears after protesters ordered to leave

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — A The pro-Palestinian protest camp has been cleared from the Drexel University campus. Shortly after Thursday morning the police arrived with orders to clear the field.

Tents were set up on Korman Quad on May 18. driving a shift to virtual classes Earlier in the week, administrators repeated calls for the camp to be disbanded. On Wednesday, the university had announced it would return to “normal operations” on Thursday.

Drexel police entered Korman Quad around 5 a.m. and informed protesters that the encampment was unauthorized, said Philadelphia Police Sgt. Eric Gripp, a department spokesman, told reporters at the scene.

“Seemingly without any reaction, over the course of about 15 to 20 minutes, the campers mostly packed up their belongings and left of their own volition,” Gripp said.

“It’s obviously very important to protect people’s First Amendment rights, but as Drexel has pointed out, this is private property,” Gripp added.

Gripp said Drexel and Philadelphia police have a mutual aid agreement, meaning Philadelphia police can come to Drexel’s aid when requested.

A large number of Philadelphia police officers were on campus Thursday morning, although Gripp did not provide exact numbers.

CBS Philadelphia crews at the scene also saw a police officer with a megaphone reading a message on a piece of paper.

Gripp said the camp had a few dozen protesters, but members began leaving once officers arrived.

The Drexel Palestinian Coalition, which created the camp, said they were calling on the university to divest from all companies and organizations that “actively participate in the colonization, occupation and ethnic cleansing of the Palestinian people.”

On Thursday morning, Drexel President John Fry sent an email to the university community asking them to stay away from the quad while Philadelphia and Drexel police cleared the encampment.

β€œAn unauthorized encampment involving a large number of people not affiliated with Drexel invading our campus is illegal,” Fry wrote. “The language and chants coming from this demonstration, underscored by the disgusting ‘demands’ of protesters, must now come to an end. Additionally, our Public Safety personnel have been diverted from their work to serve and protect our entire community from Drexel. That’s unacceptable.”

Fry said he would provide another update later Thursday morning.

The Drexel camp was part of a wave of pro-Palestinian protest camps that opened on college campuses like Columbia and the University of Pennsylvania. While those encampments have since been cleared, some tents remained at an encampment on the Swarthmore College campus as of Wednesday afternoon.

Swarthmore moved its graduation ceremony off campus due to camp, which is on the lawn where the ceremony was scheduled. Protesters at Swarthmore said on social media this week that they had been ordered to clear the site.

Another camp recently opened in Clark Park in West Philadelphia, although it does not appear to be affiliated with any university.