Over 100 Penn students and Philadelphia community members gathered outside the Penn Police Department headquarters on 4040 Chestnut Street shortly after 12 p.m. on Friday to protest Penn Police's alleged involvement in tear gassing protesters on 52nd Street on May 31.
Protesters stood wearing masks and holding signs emblazoned with the groups' three demands: fire Penn Vice President for Public Safety and president of the Philadelphia Police Foundation Maureen Rush, defund the Penn Police Department, and pay PILOTs, payments that support the local Philadelphia community and school districts. Speakers from Police Free Penn, Philadelphia Student Union, and Penn Community for Justice, an organization demanding economic and racial justice within the Penn community, called on the University to follow through with these demands.
After approximately 45 minutes of speeches in front of the Penn Police Department headquarters, the group marched east on Chestnut Street, chanting, “No justice, no peace, abolish campus police,” and “Don’t arrest me, arrest the police.” Five Penn Police vehicles were stationed at the intersection of 41st and Chestnut Streets, blocking oncoming traffic.
Protesters marched to the corner of Walnut and 38th Streets in front of Huntsman Hall, chanting their three demands, and then proceeded to Penn President Amy Gutmann's home on 3812 Walnut Street where the protest concluded at 1:15 p.m.
Amelia Carter, a leader of Penn Community for Justice and Assistant Director of the South Asia Center, said she was tear gassed during the George Floyd protest on 52nd Street on May 31.
"Penn’s violence, Penn’s white supremacy is quiet and invisible," Carter said. "It’s the kind where institutions can intentionally deprive a community of resources, so it becomes so blighted. It’s the kind where campus police can travel 10 blocks outside of their jurisdiction and feel empowered to blanket a neighborhood in tear gas and say it was for their own protection."
West Philadelphia community member Christian Ortiz added, "Not only does [the PPD] terrorize people, but when people need help, they're useless."
Nearly 15,000 students and faculty have signed Police Free Penn's petition calling on the University to cease its institutional support of a "racist, fascist police state" that has led to continued violence against Black people.
Weeks after the petition was created, Penn announced on June 24 it will no longer support the Philadelphia Police Foundation in the form of purchasing tickets to attend fundraising events. The Quattrone Center for the Fair Administration of Justice at Penn Law School will independently review Penn's Division of Public Safety and security programs using a systematic and data-driven approach, as commissioned by the University.
Staff Reporter Sukhmani Kaur contributed reporting.