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Thursday, June 13, 2024
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day 4 encampment - COVER? very end of the night before barricade take down

Day four of GW encampment ends with protesters breaking down barricade that encased University Yard

D.C. area community supports students as protesters receive food, water and medical supplies

As the encampment at George Washington University stretched into a fourth day, protesters tore down the barricade surrounding University Yard before bringing in some of the tents that had been set up on H Street. In a statement from GW’s Executive Director of Media Relations and University Spokesman Josh Grossman, it’s estimated that around 200 protesters joined the students’ encampment on University Yard. 

Overnight on Saturday, the barricade surrounding the encampment moved, constricting students within the University Yard closer to a statue of George Washington, which protesters have decorated with Palestine flags and a keffiyeh. 

Before protesters removed the barricade and stacked the metal fences in the center of University Yard Sunday night, they set up their own encampment on H Street just outside of University Yard with over a dozen additional tents and programming throughout the day. 

day 4 encampment - george statues with keffiyeh pic

H Street remains blocked off and police presence has grown since 11:30 p.m. 

Supplies for the protesters have stretched across the sidewalk outside of University Yard. Martials – some organizers wearing reflective yellow vests – patrolled the H Street area to provide assistance and protection to protesters.

Snacks litter tables along with sunscreen and bottled water constantly being handed out to protesters by these martials and other volunteers. 

Community within the encampment

Organizers held teach-ins, spaces for people to share music, including opera, community wide-conversations and a cultural show and tell. The organizers created an itinerary for the day, which was sent in a Telegram message, keeping protesters engaged over the course of the day. 

Activities included organizers playing “revolutionary music for Palestine” at 3:10 p.m., with the crowd growing to more than 35 people and a performance from WAYTA, an Andean music duo.

Among the conversations were speeches from organizers and active community members, including author Richard Becker who is currently on a national book tour for his latest book “Palestine, Israel and the U.S. Empire.” 

“It’s great that the students are doing what they’re doing,” Becker said in an interview with The Eagle. “I think that the authorities thought that when they shut down Columbia [University] with all the arrests that that would be it for the movement. And instead, it’s spread to many, many campuses across the country. I think that’s very encouraging.”

A small library sprang up, with three shelves nearly filled with books. Vincent Vertuccio, a junior in GW’s School of Media and Public Affairs, helped set up the library and said people have started bringing in more “liberatory literature” and that publishers such as Haymarket Books have offered to send books. 

day 4 encampment - little library pic

“We take for granted access to information and the literature,” Vertuccio said. “And I think it’s really important that we use the fact that we can talk about anything, distribute anything to spread knowledge of what’s going on in Palestine … and justice more generally.” 

Support from AU students

The American University presence at the encampment has grown significantly, with the University flag hanging next to a sign that read “Shame on you Sylvia #changecantwait.”

Ella Doxsee, an AU sophomore in the College of Arts and Sciences, said she has been disappointed with the University’s response to student advocacy and the conflict. AU administration announced a ban on indoor protests Jan. 25 and placed AU’s chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine on disciplinary probation earlier this month.  

“It just feels really hypocritical with the whole ‘Change Can’t Wait’ campaign, ‘cause it’s clear that there’s limits to that,” Doxsee said. “We have crossed the limits that [the administration] deemed to be acceptable and it’s frustrating because they should call for liberation and critical thought and deconstructing colonialism ‘cause that’s what we should take away from colleges and institutions.”

day 4 encampment - AU flag pic

AU students joined the tents on H Street, including Kaden Ouimet, a freshman in the School of Public Affairs and a Student Government senator-at-large. On Sunday, Ouimet said that he’s been camping with friends since Thursday. 

“We’ve only grown since the first day. We started off with little more than a dozen or so tents at the front and when you look at it, now we’ve taken up H Street,” Ouimet said. 

Ouimet said that SG is working to form a new commission designed to investigate how AU could divest from Israel. His goals are to bring more people to the table in forming new policies for AU and “really show that we’re united in the face of administration.” 

“This is not a policy issue, it’s not an investment issue, this is a moral issue,” Ouimet said. “And we will continue on this path until we achieve divestment.”

DMV SJP put out a list of demands on Instagram from schools in the D.C., Maryland and Virginia area. The demands for AU included ending study abroad programs in Israel, financial transparency, refusal of donations from individuals involved with Israel and the reversal of AU SJP’s probation.

Dana Sellers attended AU as a graduate student in the School of International Service and graduated in 2020. She expressed the importance of “supporting students when we’re no longer students.”

Sherene Abraham, a D.C. resident, stood beside Sellers and observed the demonstration.

“This to me is what courage looks like,” Abraham said, gesturing to the scene across H Street. “It’s important to show up for the next [generation].”

Abraham wanted to see the encampment through her own eyes and noted that “it’s very chill and all it is is people being present and showing up.”

“That’s what I've noticed because a lot of media will tell you otherwise and I think it’s important for you to see with your own eyes and feel with your own feelings,” Abraham said.

Support from the D.C. community

Cassie Houy, a D.C. resident who graduated from Georgetown University in 2021 with a masters in Engaged and Public Humanities, said she didn’t know much about Palestine or Israel until Oct. 7, 2023. She applauded the student organizers, calling their work brave, powerful and courageous.

“It’s intergenerational. It’s diverse; there’s people of all backgrounds here, there’s kids,” Houy said. “I felt a sense of community that I think the world needs more of, especially seeing Jewish people and Muslim people pray together. I think that’s the definition of coexisting, and I think it’s the future.”

Other attendees include community members like Lauren Tuori and her 7-year-old son Leo Moises. 

“This is Leo’s first protest,” Tuori said. “I’m here to also just kind of show him what this is all about.” 

Tuori added that she was educating Moises on her own about the history of Israel and Palestine. While Moises has enjoyed his first protest, she said, he “wishes he brought a tent.”

Moises wasn’t the only child in attendance. Dan Sachs, a D.C. resident, brought his 3-year-old daughter. 

“We’ve taken her to a lot of protests, especially protests for the ceasefire in Palestine,” Sachs said, with a bubble machine going off behind him, entertaining several children in the crowd. “We think it’s really important that she sees how some people react, and how protests are just an important part of our society to function.”

Children were seen throughout the day playing with paints, chalk and friendship bracelet material. 

Conflicts in the crowd 

At around noon, Ayden Leven, who was wearing an Israel Defense Forces sweatshirt, and his mother walked down H Street and continuously recorded the demonstration on their cell phones. The pair were reported to be telling multiple, conflicting stories about why they were at GW by those in attendance.

When asked what brought him to GW’s campus today, Leven told The Eagle he came to “check [the university] out to see how the student life on campus is.” 

Shortly after Leven and his mother arrived, they were approached by martials and other protesters. Leven’s mother eventually pulled out an Israeli flag and stood on a ledge in front of the encampment. In response, demonstrators started chants such as, “Say it loud and say it clear, we don’t want no Zionists here.” 

Leven’s mother chanted in response, “Israel will live forever.”

Zaid Khatib, is a part of the Palestinian Youth Movement and was one of the protesters who engaged with Leven and his mother by chanting back and forth.

In an interview with The Eagle, Khatib reiterated the demands of the organizers and said that he doesn’t “really pay that much mind” to counter protesters who “advocate on the side of Zionist colonizers.”

Khatib commended the determination of those in the encampment. 

“It’s been four days and the students are steadfast. They demonstrated that they’re not leaving until the university meets their demands,” Khatib said. “How long [the students] stay here is up to the GW administration.”

Leven and his mother were not the only counter-protesters. D.C. resident David Beatty joined the protest at approximately 6:30 p.m. Saturday. As crowds gathered to listen to speakers and performers during Saturday night’s advertised gathering, Beatty immersed himself in the crowd and tried to engage with protesters. 

While Beatty vocalized his disagreement with speakers and performers, leaders of the protest reminded attendees not to engage with counter-protesters. A handful of encampment martials stood near Beatty to ensure conflict would not break out in the middle of the crowd. 

Beatty emerged from the crowd on Saturday to momentarily discuss with various protesters before speaking with The Eagle. He cited “conflict” in the protests and chants to be his motivation in attending the protest. 

“I hear them object to Israeli occupation and want to be free. I love freedom. I agree with freedom,” Beatty said. “But maybe they need to show they are not a threat to Israel and Israel will respond with freedom.” 

Beatty said mercy and justice would be shown to those who expressed mercy and equity. 

“If you want the war to stop … if you want the genocide to stop, which is peace, do the things that it takes to make peace,” Beatty said. “Forgive, show mercy and forgive. If you want vengeance, it will go on forever.”  

Support in light of opposition 

Dwayne Kwaysze Wright, a GW professor at the Graduate School for Education and Human Development, has stopped by the encampment for the past three days.

In response to the protest, Kwaysze Wright referred to a quote from Martin Luther King Jr. 

“As King said, ‘The riot is the language of the unheard’, and our students have been unheard. They’ve been unheard for months,” Kwaysze Wright said. 

Kwaysze Wright also observed Leven and his mother engage with the demonstrators. 

“I’m happy [the demonstration is] peaceful and I hope it actually stays that way,” Kwaysze Wright said. “I think that clearly [Leven’s mother] came to agitate, which is fine. That’s what the First Amendment allows you to do.”  

Monica Fisher, who is visiting the U.S. from Sweden, stopped by the encampment on her way to buy groceries, speaking to the scale of the violence in Gaza. She compared Israel’s search for Hamas members to a “needle in a haystack” as thousands of civilians in Gaza are killed in the process. 

Fisher added that she appreciated how the encampment is “so peaceful and it is so managed.”

“It’s really a lot of souls behind it, souls and hearts,” Fisher said. “It’s obvious that you really take their party — the Palestinian people — and you are really, really emotionally attached to them in a way. And of course, we in Sweden also think it is horrible. We think that Netanyahu, the president of Israel — he is a monster.”

Marione Ingram, an 88-year-old Holocaust and 1943 Allied bombing of Hamburg survivor attended the protest on Saturday and Sunday with her husband, Daniel Ingram. Following a brief altercation with Beatty where he began yelling at her, Marione commented on those who call anti-Zionist movements antisemitic, saying that “they are pro-peace, they want others to enjoy life.” 

day 4 encampment - marionne pic

Speaking to her own experience, Marione emphasized the importance that students partake in protest, as their future lies ahead. Marione referenced a time when she and five protesters stood outside the South African embassy in 1984 to call for economic sanctions to end apartheid. 

After protesters outside the embassy were arrested and pardoned, “it became the thing to do to go and get arrested.” 

“Movie stars got arrested. Politicians got arrested. Everybody with a name was arrested, and apartheid fell two years later. Mandela was free,” Marione said. 

Marione added that it has been shown that students and their protests can change the world. 

“What I tell students is it doesn’t matter if there are only three of you today. It will grow if you persist.” 

Correction: A previous version of this article referred to the new commission created by SG as a committee that was created to investigate AU’s involvement in Israel. This article has been updated to reflect the purpose of the commission to investigate divestment. 

Eliza DuBose and Sara Winick contributed reporting.

This article was edited by Abigail Hatting, Zoe Bell, Tyler Davis and Abigail Turner. Copy editing done by Luna Jinks and Sarah Clayton.

Editor’s note: This podcast discusses topics like suicide, sexual abuse and violence.

In this episode of Couch Potatoes, hosts Sydney Hsu and Sara Winick talk about shows that are created to elicit an emotion response from viewers. Listen along as they discuss past and current trends within media, and how they have affected audiences.

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