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A group of Penn faculty members linked arms to block a Philadelphia Police Department van carrying arrested encampment members from leaving campus. Credit: Ethan Young

As members of the Gaza Solidarity Encampment were arrested and being loaded into vans on Friday morning, protesters gathered at 34th and Walnut streets to demonstrate against Penn’s dismantling of the encampment. 

The protesters included five Penn faculty members who attempted to physically block Philadelphia Police vehicles from leaving and entering campus. Demonstrators remained at the intersection for around three hours and chanted at police officers, who maintained a large presence after the police vans had left. 

Around 6:45 a.m., a small group of protesters remained near the intersection while the arrests were underway. Police officers explicitly said that legal observers were not allowed to enter the area of Locust Walk past 34th and Walnut streets. 

Shortly after, they linked arms to block a Philadelphia Police Department van carrying arrested encampment members from leaving campus. Eventually, five Penn professors remained despite repeated warnings from police officers. On occasion, police officers became physical when handling the professors, shoving at least one of them against a police van. 

Protesters chanted “PPD, KKK, IOF, they’re all the same" as police attempted to move the faculty members from the intersection. Police then formed a barricade to make a path for police vehicles to pass by. 

While the police officers were setting up the barricades, protesters chanted, “We see you, we love you, we will get justice for you.” As the faculty remained in place, the protesters around them shouted encouragement and applauded their bravery.

Eventually, all five faculty members were escorted away from the intersection by police officers. Three of the professors were brought down 34th Street by police officers. The officers did not respond to multiple inquiries shouted by the professors and members of the press about whether the professors were under arrest. They were eventually left alone near the Engineering Quad. 

Professors of English Chi-ming Yang and Dagmawi Woubshet, two of the professors led away, said they were initially told they were under arrest, but were not placed in zip tie handcuffs and were led away without being formally detained. Two other faculty members were also pushed away by police officers.

Woubshet said after the incident that the day’s events were a “low point at this university.”

“It’s abhorrent,” Woubshet said. “To take such punitive reprehensible action against its own students, it’s a shameful act.” 

Yang said that faculty will stand with the arrested students “all the way.” 

“We will be approaching the president [Larry Jameson],” Yang said. “We will be objecting to this violent arrest of the students.”