Five Penn community members involved with the Freedom School for Palestine remained in Houston Hall as of 2:30 a.m. on Wednesday after refusing to leave the building following their day-long teach-in.
The Freedom School for Palestine began their teach-in at around 1 p.m. on Nov. 14 in Houston Hall’s Reading Room, where they protested the University's response to the Israel-Hamas war and alleged that Penn has silenced pro-Palestinian voices on campus.
Houston Hall’s building manager gave community members a 30 minute warning to leave the building at approximately 11:30 p.m. in preparation for Houston Hall to close at midnight. At 12 a.m., he told everyone present that the building was closed.
Several community members left Houston Hall when first asked for their PennCards and identification by Penn Police and other staff members — including Senior Associate Vice Provost for Student Affairs Tamara Greenfield King — shortly after 12:30 a.m. Additional police cars began arriving outside of Houston Hall at the same time.
Demonstrators continued to leave in small groups after the building manager reiterated that Houston Hall was closed and Penn staff members repeated requests for PennCards.
Multiple community members who left after receiving warnings declined to comment when approached by The Daily Pennsylvanian.
At around 1:25 a.m., Penn Police Deputy Chief of Investigations Michael Morrin told the protestors that they would be arrested if they did not leave the building and gave them a 30-minute warning before arrests would begin.
Shortly after, members of Penn Police told the demonstrators that they could remain in Houston Hall overnight if they showed their PennCards to staff members.
Roughly five Penn community members showed their PennCards at around 1:40 a.m, which allowed them to remain in the building. Multiple Penn staff, including Penn police officers, remained inside the building at 2:15 a.m alongside the five demonstrators.
A group of demonstrators who had left the building prior to 1:55 a.m. attempted to give clothing and medication to those inside Houston around 2:15 a.m., but were told by University representatives over the phone that they could not do so.
In a statement from the Freedom School for Palestine, the organization said that programming will resume at 7:15 a.m. on Nov. 15. Houston Hall will re-open at 7:30 a.m.
Freedom School for Palestine — a self-identified collection of Penn students, faculty, staff, and alumni — organized the demonstration, which began on Nov. 14 with around 40 to 60 attendees throughout the day. The teach-in included speeches, songs, poetry, vigils, a film screening, and art workshops.
Freedom School for Palestine said in a post on Instagram that it would lead multi-day educational programming regarding its three demands: a ceasefire in Gaza, the protection of freedom of speech at Penn, and the institution of "freedom of thought on Palestine."
Senior photographers Anna Vazhaeparambil and Abhiram Juvvadi contributed reporting.