PHILADELPHIA—Victoria Coates, a national security expert at The Heritage Foundation, traveled Thursday to the City of Brotherly Love with a cadre of security personnel to deliver this simple but now radical belief at the University of Pennsylvania: “Hating Jews is a bad idea.”

Following Coates’ remarks to the Penn Alumni Free Speech Alliance and the Open Discourse Coalition at UPenn, one of her alma maters, I headed over to the College Green, the campus quad, with two representatives from the university’s College Republicans chapter.

Earlier in the day, following a demonstration at City Hall, pro-Palestinian demonstrators had descended onto College Green and erected an encampment. 

By the time I arrived on the scene just after 7 p.m., the camp was in full swing, with anti-Israel, pro-Hamas protesters (not all of them students) forming a human chain around the green and chanting: “What do we want? Justice! When do we want it? Now! If we don’t get it? Shut it down!”

Almost immediately, I began to feel uneasy, almost as if I were being watched. I was right.

Within 20 minutes, numerous individuals who appeared to be event organizers approached me from all sides asking, “What are you doing here?” And: “Which media outlet are you with?”

I showed my credentials to each and explained that I was documenting the protest on behalf of The Daily Signal, a Washington, D.C.-based media organization. (I work for The Heritage Foundation, which founded The Daily Signal in 2014.)

Just when I felt like everything was OK, two protesters—a man wearing a bike helmet and mask and a woman wearing a keffiyeh—sped toward me and dictated that I had to film on the other side of the College Green, away from the encampment. It was for my own “safety,” they said.

I rebuffed the two protesters, asking why I wouldn’t be safe where I was. And I explained, again, that I was a member of the press, documenting events as they unfolded in real time.

For the rest of my time there, several Antifa-type individuals stalked my every move, walking in my shadow.

When I tried to approach the pro-Hamas, anti-Israel encampment, my pathway was blocked by two individuals, whom I later learned were called “marshals.”

I reminded these Antifa-types that they couldn’t prevent me from filming the protest. I was told that I couldn’t come within the “circle.”

The circle to which they referred was a yellow rope strung around the encampment. Yep, that’s it.

One of them asked me if it was “OK” if I stood away from the circle.

“But what if it’s not OK?” I responded.

He immediately replied: “The resistance won’t stop.”

The “resistance” being individuals, like him, who would confront and prevent me, possibly with force, from doing my job.

I spoke with two campus police officers, who confirmed that I was free to walk about the camp and that the individuals who confronted me most likely weren’t students but outside agitators.

I returned to the College Green later Thursday night. I was prevented, yet again, from documenting the protesters’ camp.

I asked one “marshal,” who was covering his face with a keffiyeh, whether he was a student at UPenn. He repeatedly replied, “That’s none of your business, man.”

While speaking with another protester who wouldn’t identify himself, I asked why so many pro-Palestinian demonstrators refuse to condemn Hamas, the Islamist terrorist organization that slaughtered over 1,200 people Oct. 7 in Israel. (Hamas also is the elected government of Palestinians in the adjacent Gaza Strip, and has been targeted there for eradication by the Israel Defense Forces since the massacre.)

We were interrupted by a protester, who said to the other one: “I wouldn’t continue engaging with these bad faith arguments that he thinks are good faith [arguments] because he has a very Western-centric perspective.”

Yes, condemning war crimes committed by a globally recognized terror organization is a “bad faith argument.”

The encampment survived the night and entered a second day.

The University of Pennsylvania hasn’t announced official plans to remove the pro-Palestine encampment. But university officials warned: “We will not permit protest and speech when it devolves into words and actions that violate Penn’s policies, disrupt university business, or contribute to an intimidating, hostile, or violent environment on our campus.”

The encampment at UPenn joins a wave of other disruptive, anti-Israel protests throughout the U.S.

From New York University to George Washington University in the nation’s capital, members of pro-Palestine student organizations and their affiliates may not want to show their faces. But they are more than willing to say the quiet part out loud.