Senator Saval

Philadelphia, PAApril 27, 2024 − Today, in the wake of escalating police violence against students and faculty on campuses across the country, faculty at the University of Pennsylvania joined with Philadelphia elected representatives to urge administrators at Penn to respect the rights and protect the safety of students engaged in peaceful protest. Emphasizing that student activism and organizing have always been at the forefront of calls for peace and justice, members of the Penn Chapter of the American Association of University Professors, State Representative Rick Krajewski (PA House District 188), Councilmember Jamie Gauthier (City Council District 3), Councilmember Kendra Brooks (At-Large), Councilmember Nicolas O’Rourke (At-Large), State Senator Nikil Saval (PA Senate District 1), State Representative Chris Rabb (PA House District 200), and State Representative Tarik Khan (PA House District 194) issued the following statement:

“Our rights to assemble and to freedom of expression have been crucial tools to build our most important social justice movements, including the Civil Rights movement, the movement to end the Vietnam War, and Occupy Wall Street. In the past week, images and videos of violent police action against students and faculty engaged in peaceful demonstrations at college and university campuses across the country have gone viral. As faculty concerned with protecting the rights of our students and as elected representatives committed to the safety and wellbeing of those we serve, we urge administrators at Penn to do everything in their power to prevent this violence from being replicated here in Philadelphia.

“Many of us have visited the Penn Encampment ourselves. We have seen peaceful rallies, teach-ins, and prayers. We have seen organizers put significant attention toward ensuring the safety and wellbeing of all students present, including counter-protesters. In rare moments of tension, encampment organizers followed a regimented protocol for immediate de-escalation.

“Protesters nationwide face police violence and severe discipline, and the safety and wellbeing of Philadelphia students exercising their rights are among our foremost concerns. We call on Penn’s administration to do the following:

  1. Respect students’ rights to engage in nonviolent protest by refraining from calling in law enforcement to make arrests.
  2. Refrain from filing disciplinary and criminal charges against peaceful protesters involved in the encampment.
  3. Consider the demands of and negotiate in good faith with student organizers.

“There is strong precedent for a respectful response to student encampments on Penn’s campus and across the nation. During Prayer Week and other holidays, students set up tents at the center of campus and invite people to come inside and pray. In 2022, advocates for fossil fuel divestment, PILOTs, and the preservation of the University City Townhomes held an encampment for over a month outside College Hall. In contrast, the anti-war encampment now under fire is barely two days old.

“Generation after generation, in times of crisis, students have been at the forefront of movements for peace and justice. As millions of Palestinians face immense loss and violence, our students are leading the nation once again. Penn’s administrators should feel proud that their students are engaged in this thoughtful, caring, and essential work.

“We are grateful for the students’ leadership and urge our universities, and our City, to hear their call.”