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Pro-Palestinian Encampment at Penn Grows as Commencement Nears

A pro-Palestinian encampment at the University of Pennsylvania has expanded, as students wrap up exams and the university finalizes its plans for graduation ceremonies on May 20.

A post on social media by an account associated with the Penn encampment said the expansion on Wednesday night was in response to “the administration’s continued bad-faith negotiations” over demands that the university divest from financial support for Israel.

Steve Silverman, a spokesman for Penn, declined to comment on the activists’ assertion that the university was not negotiating in good faith.

For nearly two weeks, the protesters have been occupying the west side of a green space in front of College Hall, the oldest building on campus. On Wednesday night, after a march that brought a large group of students and Philadelphia activists to College Hall, protesters expanded the encampment to the east side of the green space, moving the metal barriers that had been erected to mark the boundaries of the protest space.

Penn’s administration has largely taken a hands-off approach to the encampment. But on Thursday afternoon, the university announced actions against six students in connection with the “unauthorized encampment.”

In a statement posted on Penn’s website, the university said it had imposed “mandatory temporary leaves of absence” on the students pending “disciplinary investigations.”

On Thursday, the scene around the encampment was subdued. Some protesters rested on a plinth beneath a statue of Benjamin Franklin. Others walked around the encampment with the chief of Penn’s fire and emergency services, who was surveying the grounds for potential hazards. Outside the barriers were small groups of police officers, college administrators and pro-Israel counterprotesters.

This week, Penn announced special security measures for commencement, including no bags and “airport-style security screening.”

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