As Philadelphia murder rate climbs to 2nd in nation, Penn students call for slashing campus police funding

Police Free Penn alleges that Penn Police “attacked” a Black community with pepper spray and projectiles in late May.

Even though Philadelphia currently has the nation’s second-highest murder rate, Penn students rallied to slash funding of the university’s police force.

As many as 150 University of Pennsylvania students and community members joined Police Free Penn for a protest at the University of Pennsylvania Police Department.

Police Free Penn, a group calling for the abolition of police on Penn’s campus, organized the protest in response to allegations that the University of Pennsylvania Police Department assisted Philadelphia Police in tear gassing rioters on May 31. 

According to the group, at least 150 people protested.

[RELATED: Anti-police protesters show up outside Harvard president’s home]

The group’s social media alleged that Penn police “attacked” a predominantly Black neighborhood, firing tear gas, pepper spray, and projectiles at protesters and bystanders. The post called for a 50 percent reduction in Penn Police’s budget, the establishment of a community-controlled reparations fund, and the removal of all Penn trustees tied to “policing and prison industries.”


On July 24, protest participants congregated at the Penn Division of Public Safety headquarters, demanding that Penn fire Vice President for Public Safety Maureen Rush, defund the Penn Police Department, and pay to support local Philadelphia public schools, according to a Twitter thread by Philadelphia Inquirer reporter Oona Goodin-Smith.

Organizers started the event with a handful of speeches about the need for Penn to address systemic inequities. Protesters also chanted “no justice, no peace, abolish campus police.”

[RELATED: Penn changes policy, student groups can now fundraise for BLM and bail funds]

When the protesters arrived at Penn President Amy Gutmann’s home, they hung signs bearing phrases like “end police terror” on the fence. 

One sign called for the abolition of ICE and SWAT. 

Protesters also displayed an orange prison jumpsuit bearing the phrase “super predator” and the University of Pennsylvania seal.    


Major cities across the United States have experienced a sudden increase in homicides in the wake of George Floyd’s death and subsequent unrest. As of July 26, at least 247 people had fallen victim to homicide in Philadelphia since the beginning of this year, marking a 32 percent increase in homicides year-to-date.

Philadelphia currently has the second-highest murder rate among large American cities, second only to Chicago, according to CNN.

Police Free Penn’s petition to “end Penn police state collusion” has amassed more than 15,000 signatures.

Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @BenZeisloft