Police arrest six student protesters at University of Pennsylvania

<span>In similar action, police clear protesters at the University of Pennsylvania campus in Philadelphia earlier this month.</span><span>Photograph: Jessica Griffin/AP</span>
In similar action, police clear protesters at the University of Pennsylvania campus in Philadelphia earlier this month.Photograph: Jessica Griffin/AP

More than a dozen pro-Palestinian activists, including six students at the University of Pennsylvania, were arrested after attempting to occupy a hall on the university campus late Friday.

The protesters were arrested around 9pm after trying to take over Fisher-Bennett Hall but had been met with a response from university and Philadelphia police, according to reports. The Daily Pennsylvanian reported that protesters caused the evacuation of an alumni event at the Penn Museum.

The effort to occupy the hall, which houses English, cinema and media studies, and music departments, comes a week after the university cleared a “Gaza solidarity encampment” from the university, leaving protestors scrambling to refocus their efforts.

According to the outlet, protesters may have tried to use wooden pallets, wire and overturned furniture to block three entrances to the hall. Makeshift barricades read “Free Palestine” and protesters chanted: “There is only one solution, intifada revolution.”

Police, some with riot shields and clubs, formed a barricade and pushed protesters out of the street. One police officer told the outlet that they “could not wait” to arrest individuals.

Related: Norman Finkelstein on Gaza, ‘from the river to the sea’ and political messaging: ‘We need to bring unity to this struggle’

The action comes as the university is about to hold graduation ceremonies for students, with their families and alumni in attendance. Visiting alumni had been warned of likely disruptions in advance. Students nationwide are demanding that their schools disclose and divest themselves from assets affiliated with Israel and grant amnesty to those who have been disciplined or arrested.

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

The university also said that 12 individuals were “issued citations for failure to disperse and failure to follow police commands and later released. Seven remain in custody awaiting felony charges, including one for assaulting a police officer.”

It also said campus police had recovered lock-picking tools and homemade metal shields fashioned from oil drums and found that “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”.

A plan for occupation was announced in an Instagram post by Penn students against the occupation of Palestine. It called for protesters to bring “flags, pots, pans, noise makers” and megaphones, and said that once occupied the hall would be renamed Refaat Alareer Hall, after a Palestinian poet who was killed in Gaza in December.

In the statement, the group said the planned occupation was the result of a “series of escalations by the Penn administration”, including a refusal to negotiate in “good faith”, and it cited student arrests by Penn police and disciplinary actions by the university.