Fight Back! News

News and Views from the People's Struggle

Drexel University students establish “Little Gaza” encampment during Nakba Day march

By Kyle Cansler

Philadelphia pro-Palestine marchers surround the quad with banners and signs, shielding the encampment. | Photo: Amber Kahn

Philadelphia, PA– On May 18, hundreds of people gathered outside Philadelphia City Hall to rally and march in remembrance of the 76th anniversary of the Nakba. Protesters marched west throughout the city, eventually arriving at Drexel University. With the support and protection of the people, student organizers established a new encampment on Drexel’s Korman quad.

Nakba Day commemorates the violent displacement of Palestinians that occurred during and after the 1948 Arab-Israeli War, which resulted in the establishment of the state of Israel. The term “Nakba” means “catastrophe” in Arabic and reflects the mass exodus of 400,000 plus Palestinians from their homes and homeland, and the subsequent loss of 15,000 Palestinian lives.

Under rainy skies, hundreds of rallygoers listened to speeches delivered by members of the organizations in the Philly Palestine Coalition, which organized the event.

Afterwards, the march, which started at the north side of city hall, moved westward past the skyscrapers of Center City, across the Market Street bridge, and towards Drexel’s campus in West Philly. Chants such as “Ali, ali, ali, ali – ali elam althawra ali! [Raise, raise, raise, raise – raise the flag of the revolution!]” and “Intifada, intifada, long live the intifada!” rang through the streets of Philly.

The march stopped at 33rd and Market, just outside Drexel University, for more speeches and chants. Meanwhile, organizers with Drexel Palestine Coalition had protesters slip out from the crowd and into the Korman Quad, where they began setting up a new encampment.

Amber Khan, a participant in the march and a member of FRSO Philadelphia, recounts, “As speakers energized the crowd, an organizer approached my group and informed us that protesters were slowly trickling into the quad and that we could join them if we wanted to. They let us know that the risk would be higher, but the more people present, the safer we would all be.”

The Philadelphia Police Department immediately attempted to crush the burgeoning encampment, seizing tents, shouting, and harassing students for their IDs.

“It didn’t seem like the encampment would be able to last very long at first,” Khan said, “but the students did not budge and were able to lock arms around the few tents they raised.” The small chain of human bodies, shielding the students from the PPD, grew as more protesters from the march joined in defense. Outnumbered, the police could only set up barricades around the students to try and prevent more protesters from joining. Despite this, the organized amidst the chaos were able to pass off food and supplies through the barricades and the areas that the police had not yet closed off.

Organizers securely established the new encampment, dubbed “Little Gaza,” just over a week after the PPD swept the encampment on the University of Pennsylvania campus. The students are hopeful that they can use the encampment to pressure Drexel University administration to “divest from their partnerships with Israeli and non-Israeli entities that fund and uphold the system of apartheid, and genocide of Palestinians,” among other demands listed on the Drexel Palestine Coalition Instagram page.

#PhiladelphiaPA #PA #AntiWarMovement #International #MiddleEast #Palestine #StudentMovement #SDS #FRSO #Nakba #Feature