Students for the Preservation of Chinatown protested at the Penn Board of Trustees meeting against the proposed Philadelphia 76ers arena in Chinatown.
Over 50 protestors affiliated with SPOC held a demonstration outside of the Campus Apartments office on March 3. The protest moved to the Inn at Penn — the site of the University's Board of Trustees meeting. Some students entered the Board of Trustees meeting but were asked to leave soon after announcing their demands.
According to a press release, SPOC is demanding that the University remove trustees involved with 76 Devcorp, the private development company behind the 76ers' arena, and David Adelman, and divest from all corporations tied to the proposed development.
Adelman — who also serves as CEO of Campus Apartments, a provider for off-campus housing for Penn students — is the chairman 76 Devcorp that works in partnership with the 76ers' managing partners.
Board of Trustees Chair Scott Bok did not respond to a request for comment.
Last year, 76ers management announced plans to build a new stadium, as the team's lease with Wells Fargo Center — their current home stadium — expires in 2031. The new stadium is one block away from the Chinatown Friendship Gate, the entrance to the Chinatown neighborhood, and its announcement has sparked fear of gentrification by some residents and students.
According to a statement from 76 Devcorp, the arena will not be built in Chinatown, but rather in the Fashion District at Market East. The statement also says that 76 Devcorp is committing $50 million to improve, strengthen and enhance communities around Market East and pursuing solutions to improve commerce, transit, safety, cleanliness and vibrance to the area.
“As we continue to develop a meaningful plan to ensure the arena project can positively impact Philadelphia and its residents, it is disappointing to see some groups claiming to represent the broader interests of the city irresponsibly spreading misinformation about our proposed plans,” the statement said.
Students trying to enter the Board of Trustees meeting were initially told they could not enter due to a change in policy about allowing students and the room being too full, SPOC co-founder and College sophomore Taryn Flaherty told the Daily Pennsylvanian. According SPOC's press release, nine Penn students eventually were allowed to enter the Board of Trustees meeting — which is open to attendance from Penn community members — and one student began speaking of the group’s demand as others passed out the demands to the Board of Trustees members.
Hotel management then told the students that police were downstairs and asked them if they wanted to be escorted out, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer. Flaherty said that the protestors then decided to leave the meeting and continue the rally outside with the other protestors.
"Our whole point is that we want the Board of Trustees to hear our concerns," Flaherty said.
Following this incident, protestors remained outside the Inn at Penn for over two hours, and students and community members spoke to the crowd about their experiences with displacement in West Philadelphia and why protecting Chinatown is important to them.
"We as students at Penn, we as residents of the city need to actively be resisting the complicity in the destruction of neighborhoods across Philadelphia and tell Penn to cut off all ties," Flaherty said at the protest.
In addition to the demands involving cutting ties with developers and corporations involved with the construction, SPOC also demanded that Penn end plans to privatize student housing, reevaluate the Wharton curriculum, and openly express support for residents in Chinatown opposing the construction.
“Penn and Drexel students have really strong ties with the developers of the arena,” Bryn Mawr College junior Kaia Chau and co-founder of SPOC previously told The Daily Pennsylvanian in January. “We thought that we needed to really start pressuring both developers and the students at the schools to reflect on the systemic issues that the institution and the developers are perpetuating.”
SPOC previously held a protest in November on Penn’s campus demanding the halt of the development of the proposed arena.
Photo Editor Anna Vazhaeparambil contributed reporting.