Students at Drexel University in Philadelphia are complaining to administrators over the use of a state-owned building on their campus as a National Guard headquarter, saying the presence of the troops makes them “feel uncomfortable and unsafe.”
The Guard members, who have been deployed to Philadelphia in response to the city’s growing levels of unrest, now occupy a building known as “the Armory,” which is owned by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and historically served as a recruiting station and command center for the National Guard’s 103rd Engineering Battalion.
“I do not condone the housing of the national guard at the armory on campus. Their presence has made many students feel uncomfortable and unsafe,” reads a sample letter shared on social media for students to send to university president John Fry. “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.”
Fry responded in an email to the Drexel community that while he acknowledges their “anger, frustration, pain, and fear” caused by “seeing National Guard vehicles on or close to campus,” the university doesn’t own or fund the Armory, and therefore cannot bar the Commonwealth from using its space.
“I understand that this has been upsetting, particularly on top of the terrible incidents of the past week,” reads Fry’s email, which was posted to social media by students. “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.”
The Philadelphia protests, as a part of nationwide outcry sparked by the death of George Floyd, started last Saturday and quickly descended into violence and destruction, prompting Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf to activate the state’s National Guard to support near-overwhelmed local law enforcement.
President Donald Trump recently called the situation in Philadelphia “a mess” during a video teleconference with governors, saying that the widespread violence in big cities such as Dallas, Los Angeles, and Philadelphia was “coming from the radical left.”
“If you’re weak and don’t dominate your streets, they’re going to stay with you until you finally do it,” the president told the governors, reported CBS News. “Philadelphia, you’d better toughen up, because what’s going on in Philadelphia, like New York, is terrible … You’ve got a big National Guard out there that’s ready to come in and fight like hell. I tell you, the best, what they did in Minneapolis was incredible.”
Trump’s comment came after he called Philadelphia out on Twitter, suggesting the city should call in the National Guard to help restore law and order.