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Credit: Ethan Young

This story is developing and will continue to be updated.

On Friday evening, pro-Palestinian activists attempted to occupy Fisher-Bennett Hall at 34th and Walnut streets on Penn’s campus. Nineteen individuals were arrested by Penn and Philadelphia Police officers — including seven Penn students — prompting protests to spread across Penn’s campus. The arrests came just one week after the University cleared the Gaza Solidarity Encampment from College Green and as Commencement celebrations and Alumni Weekend began on campus.

The Daily Pennsylvanian compiled a timeline of Friday night’s events, beginning when protesters first entered the building.

Friday, May 18

8:34 p.m. The Philadelphia Police Department citywide scanner first reported the occupation of Fisher-Bennett Hall.

8:36 p.m. — An Instagram post from Penn Students Against the Occupation of Palestine — in conjunction with Temple Students for Justice in Palestine, the Philly Palestine Coalition, National Students for Justice in Palestine, and the Freedom School for Palestine — announced “BREAKING: STUDENTS TAKE OVER FISHER BENNETT [sic] HALL” and stated that the hall had been “liberated.” 

The group announced that they were renaming the building “Refaat Alareer Hall” after a Palestinian poet, professor, and activist who was killed in Gaza on Dec. 6, 2023.

The statement said the occupation was the result of a “series of escalations by the Penn administration,” including a refusal to negotiate in “good faith,” also citing arrests by Penn Police officers and disciplinary action taken by the University.

PAO added that protesters’ demands remained the same as during the Gaza Solidarity Encampment — including calling for the divestment from assets affiliated with Israel, the disclosure of Penn’s investments, and the defense of Palestinian students and their supporters. Organizers have also called for amnesty for those who have been disciplined or arrested.

8:40 p.m. — Philadelphia Police officers arrived on the scene and reported that “students returned to barricade themselves into a building,” according to the police scanner.

8:42 p.m. — The police scanner reported that “a couple people” inside the building were taken into custody.

Credit: Abhiram Juvvadi

8:55 p.m. — According to the police scanner, a protester threw up. Philadelphia Police officers, expressing concern that the individual may have “hit her head,” called for a medic.

8:56 p.m. — The Philadelphia Police scanner reported “throwing objects” in the area and a “female with a face injury.”

8:56 p.m. — A UPennAlert sent out by Penn’s Division of Public Safety notified the community of a “LARGE DISRUPTIVE CROWD at 34th & WALNUT STREET” and advised people to use caution, as police were on scene, and to avoid the area.

9:04 p.m. — Police began to arrest protesters outside of Fisher-Bennett.

9:15 p.m. — Several Philadelphia Police officers forcefully removed protesters — some of whom resisted — from inside Fisher-Bennett. One protester fell to the ground after being forced out, according to a video posted to the PAO's Instagram story. The caption of the post read “WE NEED YOU NOW!”

9:16 p.m. — An email sent by School of Engineering and Applied Science Vice Dean of Finance and Administration Mike Matthews to Engineering students, staff, and faculty stated that all Engineering School buildings would be closed until further notice, “effective immediately.” 

9:18 p.m. — Police asked protesters to move away from the corner of Walnut Street after protesters and police had gathered in a tight circle. The two parties attempted to push each other as police tried to make arrests. Some protesters tried to run towards Walnut Street.

9:25 p.m. — All Emergency Response Team units were activated in response to protesters, according to the police scanner, and traffic reached a full stop at the corner of 34th and Walnut streets. Police with billy clubs ordered protesters to get off the grass. Many police officers refused to share their badge numbers when asked. 

9:39 p.m. — In a line, riot police began pushing back against a line of protesters. A protester was seen on the ground being cuffed by four officers from the Philadelphia Police.

9:40 p.m. — Affiliated groups, including PAO and the Freedom School for Palestine, continued to call for support on Instagram. 

9:50 p.m. — Around 75 new protesters joined the crowd, lining up in front of Fisher Fine Arts Library. Police moved into the street as crowds of protesters lined both sides.

9:57 p.m. — Protesters re-entered the street after police had previously cleared it. Protesters lined up face-to-face with Philadelphia and Penn Police officers.

Credit: Abhiram Juvvadi

10 p.m.The University released the following statement: “Earlier this evening, a group of individuals entered Fisher-Bennett Hall on Penn’s campus and attempted to occupy it. Penn Police, with support from Philadelphia Police, escorted them out and secured the building, taking several individuals into custody. The situation remains active.”

10:08 p.m. — Police officers placed several barricades near Walnut Street and adjacent to Fisher-Bennett, restricting access to the area where protesters and police were located.

​​10:14 p.m. — DPS sent an updated UPennAlert notifying the community that the “LARGE CROWD REMAINS ON LOCATION at 200 BLOCK OF S. 34TH STREET” with the same accompanying warnings as the original alert.

10:23 p.m. — Protesters marched down 34th Street towards Spruce Street. Most police — and all police with riot shields — remained in a line blocking off Walnut Street. The march stopped at the Penn Museum, which was hosting “Franklin Fest,” an Alumni Weekend event.

10:30 p.m. — Protesters climbed the fence of the Penn Museum, chanted against Penn, and encouraged alumni — who were recording on the other side of the fence — to join them. Event attendees were asked to leave by the University.

Credit: Abhiram Juvvadi

10:36 p.m. — PHL17 reported that at least eight individuals had been arrested, that Walnut Street was closed from 33rd to 36th streets, and that Drexel University Police officers were on the scene.

10:39 p.m. — The group of protesters continued to travel east towards the South Street Bridge. A large portion of the crowd dispersed, and an organizer informed the crowd that they were welcome to go home but that a smaller group would be marching towards the police headquarters.

10:44 p.m. — On Instagram, several groups, including the Philly Palestine Coalition, called for support at the Philadelphia Police headquarters.

11:09 p.m. — A sign left outside the Penn Museum gate read “RESIST” and included a drawing of an upside-down triangle symbol. This shape has previously been documented in notable usage as a societal symbol, including by the pro-Palestinian movement as a representation of solidarity with Palestinians, by the military wing of Hamas to identify targets, and by the Nazis to identify political prisoners.

11:16 p.m. — The front entrance to Fisher-Bennett remained blocked off by a barrier that read “FREE PALESTINE,” and several officers from DPS entered the building with evidence bags. The Walnut Street entrance to the building was blocked by a makeshift barricade of several cones and pieces of wood, and a box of barbed wire was on the sidewalk nearby. An alarm could be heard inside the empty building, but police numbers decreased outside.

11:18 p.m. — Around 20 protesters gathered in front of the headquarters of the Philadelphia Police at 400 N. Broad St. Those arrested had yet to be released. 

11:21 p.m. A UPennAlert issued at 11:15 p.m. announced that 34th and Walnut streets, as well as the 200 block of South 34th Street, were “all clear” and that people could “resume normal activity.”

11:23 p.m. — At least five Penn Police officers brought bags of evidence out of Fisher-Bennett, seemingly holding supplies that protesters had brought into the building in anticipation of the occupation. Protesters appeared to have attempted to enter the building from all three entrances on Walnut and 34th streets. 

Saturday, May 19

12:04 a.m. — At the Philadelphia Police headquarters, protesters chalked messages on the sidewalk, including “Free Palestine,” “Divest from genocide,” “Long Live the Student Intifada,” and a drawing of the Palestinian flag. The crowd grew to 70 people.

Credit: Abhiram Juvvadi

1:48 a.m. — Fisher-Bennett was quiet, with all barriers removed and one police car out front. At the Philadelphia Police headquarters, protesters had yet to be released. 

5 a.m. — Protesters who did not receive felony charges began to be released from custody, according to a source familiar with the matter. A total of twelve individuals were released around this time. 

12:30 p.m. — A new University statement reported that nineteen individuals were arrested Friday evening, including seven Penn students. Twelve individuals were cited for “failure to disperse and failure to follow police commands” and released, while “seven remain in custody awaiting felony charges, including one for assaulting a police officer,” according to the statement.

“Upon clearing the building, Penn Police recovered lock-picking tools and homemade metal shields fashioned from oil drums,” the University statement read. “The exit doors had been secured with zip-ties, barbed wire, and barricaded with metal chairs and desks, and the windows were covered over with newspaper and cardboard. Bike racks and metal chairs were also found blocking outside entrances. Penn remains focused on maintaining the safety and security of our campus.”