Encampments cleared from at least 3 university campuses early Friday as pro-Palestinian demonstrations continue

Pro-Palestinian encampments were cleared from at least three college campuses early Friday as schools across the country continued to call in law enforcement to quell demonstrations in recent weeks. Here are the latest developments:

Police broke up an encampment at the University of Pennsylvania Friday morning and arrested nearly three dozen people.

The student newspaper The Daily Pennsylvanian reported that protesters received a two-minute warning to disperse shortly before 6 a.m. The encampment had been up for 16 days.

“We could not allow further disruption of our academic mission. We could not allow students to be prevented from accessing study spaces and resources, attending final exams, or participating in Commencement ceremonies,” said J. Larry Jameson, interim president, John Jackson, provost, and Craig Carnaroli, senior executive vice president, in a joint statement.

Protesters were given multiple warnings and allowed to voluntarily leave, according to a university spokesperson. At least 33 people were arrested without incident and cited for defiant trespass.

“The arrested individuals were given code violation notices for defiant trespass and were released quickly throughout the morning,” according to a university spokesperson.

The spokesperson said nine of those arrested were UPenn students, up from the seven arrests the university previously reported. Twenty-four others arrested had no university affiliation, according to the school.

The affiliation of encampment protesters had been a point of contention from the outset. Days after tents went up, university officials tried to check IDs but demonstrators resisted. One night, CNN reported that several protesters admitted not being students.

In response to the demand for IDs, encampment organizers had said in a statement, “we are all members of the Philadelphia community whether or not Penn recognizes it with a plastic card.”

Ultimately, UPenn said, the resistance to producing identification was one reason the the encampment was disbanded.

No one was injured, Philadelphia Mayor Cherelle Parker said in a statement. The university requested help from the city on May 1, and it was agreed police “would provide backup assistance if arrests were made, or if the situation became dangerous or violent.”

Police detain a protester on the University of Pennsylvania campus in Philadelphia on Friday. - Jessica Griffin/The Philadelphia Inquirer/AP
Police detain a protester on the University of Pennsylvania campus in Philadelphia on Friday. - Jessica Griffin/The Philadelphia Inquirer/AP

Police with riot gear and batons were seen moving in and dismantling tents as people were taken into custody, according to CNN affiliate WPVI.

After the encampment was cleared, the area closed for clean up.

Philadelphia police, which the university said assisted in the operation, referred questions to Penn police.

The police operation came less than 24 hours after Pennsylvania Gov. Josh Shapiro called for the encampment to be disbanded, saying the situation at UPenn “has gotten even more unstable and out of control.”

“Unfortunately, the situation at Penn reached an untenable point – and as the University stated publicly, the encampment was in violation of university policy, campus was being disrupted, and threatening, discriminatory speech and behavior were increasing,” Shapiro spokesperson Manuel Bonder said in a statement.

The Philadelphia and Pittsburgh chapters of the Council on American-Islamic Relations denounced the police action. Ahmet Tekelioglu, executive director of CAIR-Philadelphia, accused Shapiro of “anti-Palestinian bias.”

MIT encampment dismantled

Law enforcement cleared an encampment at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Friday morning, days after the university announced a “set of disciplinary consequences” for students who remained following a deadline to leave.

Demonstrators chanted “Free Palestine” as police took apart the encampment on the Cambridge, Massachusetts, campus Friday, video from CNN affiliate WFXT showed.

Police in riot gear walk past officers dismantling a pro-Palestinian encampment at MIT before dawn Friday in Cambridge, Massachusetts.<br />Josh Reynolds/AP - Josh Reynolds/AP
Police in riot gear walk past officers dismantling a pro-Palestinian encampment at MIT before dawn Friday in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
Josh Reynolds/AP - Josh Reynolds/AP

MIT President Sally Kornbluth said Friday the encampment on Kresge lawn has been cleared. Ten people, a mix of graduate and undergraduate students, were arrested without incident.

Kornbluth said the situation on campus escalated in recent days with “threats from individuals and groups from both sides.”

“It was not heading in a direction anyone could call peaceful,” she said in a statement.

The decision to break up the encampment, Kornbluth said, came after MIT “offered warnings” and “telegraphed clearly what was coming.”

The university tried this week to clear the encampment. On Monday it enacted a “set of disciplinary consequences” for students who remained after being ordered to peacefully clear the area.

On Thursday, fewer than 10 students were arrested on campus, according to the university.

Demonstrators had blocked the entry to a garage into the Stata Center – the biggest access point for deliveries to and from the university and where staff and administration park, said Francesca Riccio-Ackerman, the media liaison for MIT Scientists Against Genocide Encampment.

‘All clear’ at the University of Arizona

“Loud munitions” and “chemical munitions” were used as the school’s police department worked to clear an encampment from campus early Friday, the university said.

“A structure made from wooden pallets and other debris was erected on campus property,” a violation of school policy, officials said. The university is set to hold a commencement ceremony Friday evening, according to its website.

Law enforcement officers last week tore down an encampment on campus. An undergraduate, a graduate student, and two people unaffiliated with the university were arrested, CNN previously reported.

No injuries were reported.

Protest fallout continues at other schools

Harvard University has begun placing students connected to an ongoing pro-Palestine encampment on “involuntary” leaves of absence, the Harvard Crimson reported Friday, citing an Instagram post from the group Harvard Out of Occupied Palestine.

It is unclear how many students have been placed on leave.

The move comes after protesters rejected an offer from interim Harvard President Alan Garber overnight to avoid being placed on leave in exchange for taking down the encampment.

Harvard warned protesters on Monday that those in the encampment faced “involuntary leave” and may not be able to sit for exams, CNN previously reported.

Students on involuntary leave also may not reside in Harvard housing and “must cease to be present on campus until reinstated,” according to the interim president.

The Harvard Yard encampment went up nearly two weeks ago.

Garber had previously said Harvard would have a “very, very high bar” before asking police to intervene.

University of Wisconsin-Madison reaches resolution to end encampment: School officials said representatives of Students for Justice in Palestine will clear Library Mall on Friday and commit to “not disrupt this weekend’s graduation ceremonies or other campus functions.”

There was no immediate comment from the student group, which the university said also committed to not reestablishing an encampment and “to following UW–Madison rules in its future activities.”

“This has been a difficult period for our campus, our nation and the world,” said the university, adding it “supports peaceful student protest” and appreciates the encampment “was motivated by understandably passionate feelings about the devastation in Gaza, and was a source of community for many participants.”

But the encampment, the statement said, “made others in our community, especially portions of our Jewish community, feel uncomfortable and unseen.”

“We reiterate our strong condemnation of antisemitism, Islamophobia, and hate and bigotry in all its forms, and we recognize the costs of war and displacement on so many across the globe,” the university said.

Under the agreement with protest leaders, the university said it will facilitate “access for SJP to meet with decision makers to discuss disclosure and investment principles and enhanced engagement with and support for scholars and students impacted by war, violence and displacement.”

University police had earlier reminded protesters any disruption of campus events, including commencement ceremonies Friday and Saturday afternoon, is against state law and will not be tolerated.

Students who disrupt will face suspension and have their degree put on hold, according to CNN affiliate WMTV.

Students and non-students involved in disruptions also face arrest, citation and criminal charges.

University of Massachusetts Amherst commencement speaker withdraws: Author Colson Whitehead will no longer speak at the school’s May 18 commencement due to the “events of May 7 on campus,” the university said in a statement.

On Tuesday night into Wednesday, police cleared an encampment and arrested several protesters at the university, CNN previously reported.

“We respect Mr. Whitehead’s position and regret that he will not be addressing the Class of 2024,” UMass Amherst spokesperson Ed Blaguszewski said. The ceremony will now be held without a commencement speaker, the university said.

CNN has reached out to Whitehead for comment.

Xavier University cancels UN ambassador’s commencement speech: The HBCU in Louisiana is the second institution to reverse course on inviting US Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield to speak, according to multiple reports. The decision was made in response to a student-led petition expressing anger at US policy supporting Israel in its war against Hamas and its vote against a ceasefire at the UN, university President Reynold Verret said.

The New School won’t pursue criminal charges against student protesters: More than 40 people were arrested during a pro-Palestinian demonstration at the New York City university on May 3, CNN has reported. But school officials have asked prosecutors to drop all charges, interim President Donna Shalala said in a message to the university community that also announced the Faculty Senate has asked to reactivate an Advisory Committee on Investor Responsibility.

USC valedictorian shares heavily redacted canceled speech: Asna Tabassum, the University of Southern California valedictorian whose speech was canceled last month after the university cited safety concerns, shared a mostly redacted version of her speech Friday to CNN. The letter begins, “It is my honor to stand before you today as your Valedictorian. I am filled with gratitude to have the privilege of.” The rest is redacted until it ends with, “Congratulations, Class of 2024. Thank you.” Two USC student-run media outlets, the Daily Trojan and USC Annenberg Media, originally published the letter Friday.

This is a developing story and will be updated.

CNN’s Kelly McCleary, Amanda Musa, Andy Rose, Danny Freeman, Sam Simpson, Rob Frehse and Zenebou Sylla contributed to this report.

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