PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) — Student protestors stormed Franklin Field on Saturday afternoon during the University of Pennsylvania’s homecoming game with three demands for the university: save a low-income housing complex in West Philadelphia, stop investing in fossil fuels and pay its fair share of property tax to support city schools.
“It’s not like we’re asking for anything crazy or unreasonable,” said Ari Bortman, the organizer for Fossil Free Penn. “We want Penn to be a good neighbor, a good citizen of Philadelphia and this is how they respond. They took 19 students out in handcuffs.”
According to the organization Fossil Free Penn, 19 student protestors were arrested from Franklin Field, including Gigi Varlotta. She was charged with defiant trespass.
“We don’t want to inconvenience players, families, but people are losing their homes, people are being evicted, so that’s why we feel the need to fight,” said student protestor Varlotta.
Varlotta is fighting to save UC Townhomes, a low incoming housing complex near 40th and Market streets, that’s set to be sold. Residents are being forced to vacate by the end of the year.
“I saw how powerful our protest and disruption was and I’m really hoping the university starts paying attention and see how much it means not only to the university but to its students,” said Varlotta.
And protestors waited for hours outside until everyone was released from University of Pennsylvania Police custody, celebrating when they were all reunited.
“The people who have been inside this jail for the last four or five hours have worked really freaking hard today to demand justice for climate, to demand justice for the community and we’re not leaving them,” said Bortman.
The University of Pennsylvania released a statement in response to the protest:
“The intentional disruption of today’s football game was neither an appropriate expression of free speech, nor consistent with Penn’s open expression guidelines. It delayed the start of the second half by approximately one-hour, frustrating student-athletes from both schools, and disappointing fans and alumni who had come to watch the Homecoming football game.
Further, the student protesters have been afforded multiple opportunities to protest, express their concerns, and genuinely engage in productive dialogue, but have instead continued to find ways to disrupt the operations of the University. The student protesters’ conduct does nothing to advance their legitimate policy concerns, concerns the University shares, but rather impinges upon the rights of others in the community to participate in the life of the campus.
Consistent with University policy, any student believed to have been involved in disrupting and delaying today’s football game will be referred to the Office of Community Standards and Accountability.
The University of Pennsylvania supports free speech, thought, inquiry, and lawful assembly. Penn’s Guidelines on Open Expression champion these rights while also affirming that University business – such as classes, meetings, games, or speaking events – shall not be infringed upon or disrupted by protests or demonstrations.”
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