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Drexel Students Protest National Guard Presence on Campus

June 3, 2020

Drexel University students took to social media and wrote letters to President John Fry on Tuesday to criticize the use of a government-owned building on the Philadelphia campus as a headquarters for members of the National Guard. Hundreds of Guard members were called up on June 1 by Pennsylvania governor Tom Wolf and sent to the city to respond to the protests and property destruction that erupted over the death of George Floyd, a black man killed by a white police officer in Minneapolis, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported.

The Guard members are using the Armory, a building owned by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and the longtime home to the National Guard’s 103rd Engineering Battalion, as a operations and communications command center, Fry said in a message to students and staff members Tuesday. Part of the building has also been leased by Drexel, a private institution, since 2008, and is used as a practice facility for university athletics.

Students who live in nearby apartment complexes and a university residence hall were warned on June 1 that they may see National Guard vehicles and members in the area and at the Armory, according to an email from University Crossings, an off-campus apartment located one block away from the Armory. A letter shared on social media as a template for students to send to Fry said students “do not condone” the use of the Armory by the Guard and that their presence on and close to the campus “has made many students feel uncomfortable and unsafe.”

“Calling in the Guard is a dangerous overreaction to protesting that will likely lead to more brutality and more bloodshed, which will then be on Drexel’s hands and by association, on your hands,” the letter said.

Fry responded in his message that while he understands why students are upset, Drexel “does not fund this space in any way, and we cannot bar the Commonwealth from using its own facility.” The building has housed Guard operations since the 1920s, he said.

“I appreciate that was a shock to our community and has created concern and distrust,” Fry said. “Please know that the university is not condoning violence against peaceful protesters or efforts to silence the voices that have risen up against racism in this country. This is a troubling time for all of us, and the emotional toll many of us are feeling is real.”

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Greta Anderson

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