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Thursday, June 13, 2024
The Eagle

Congressional press conference defines day 7 of GW encampment

House Oversight Committee Republicans met with boos and jeering at University Yard

Republican representatives on the House Oversight Committee toured the University Yard encampment at George Washington University on Wednesday afternoon. 

The lawmakers then held an on-site press conference calling for the encampment to be cleared and criticizing D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser for refusing to deploy Metropolitan Police after GW requested support

Thursday marks one week of the encampment on GW’s University Yard, and more than 50 tents continue to cover the lawn and the H-street block between 20th and 21st Street. 

In attendance from the committee were Committee Chairman James Comer (R-KY), Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-CO), Rep. Anna Paulina Luna (R-FL), Rep. Byron Donalds (R-FL), Rep. Eric Burlison (R-MO) and Rep. Wiliam Timmons (R-SC). 

GW administration met with the officials prior to their tour of University Yard.

Bowser addressed the lawmakers’ visit in a press conference later that night, saying she knows they have protests happening in their own states, specifically addressing Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-NC), chairwoman of the Committee on Education and the Workforce.

“I was watching a lot of activity in North Carolina, it would seem that her energy would be best placed there,” Bowser said. On April 26, students at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Duke University and North Carolina State University set up an encampment on UNC’s campus.

The representatives, escorted by uniformed security and swarmed by protestors, press and general onlookers, shuffled through the sea of tents as a group of protestors quietly sang off to the side. 

Walking through University Yard, Donalds denounced the encampment and accused protestors of impeding “the ability of other people to do what they need to do in their lives.”

“The students do not have a deed entitled to the campus of GW. You pay to be here. If the school says an activity is trespassing and they ask you to leave, they have a right to do so. The same way you would in your property,” Donalds said to student protestors.

Donalds also claimed that “the university believes that most of the protestors aren’t even students to begin with.” His statement echoes an increasingly common claim being used to justify police action against pro-Palestine encampments across the country, including a Tuesday night sweep of the Columbia University encampment.


As the group walked past a statue of George Washington, Boebert attempted to pull down the Palestinian flag tied around the statue’s neck before her security escorted her away. 

Only the eyes of the statue are now visible as protestors have wrapped its head with keffiyeh, added signs at his feet, and painted slogans on the front of the statue’s base. 

A letter signed by Foxx and Comer was sent Tuesday to both Bowser and MPD Chief Pamela Smith. The letter called on Bowser and Smith to “answer fully for the reluctance to enforce the law.”

The House Oversight Committee will be questioning Bowser and Smith at a congressional hearing next Wednesday on their response to the GW encampment. According to The Washington Post, the Committee’s Republicans aim to “use the hearing to compel more aggressive police action at the demonstration.” 

“We are alarmed by reports that [MPD] rejected requests from officials at [GWU] to assist in removing the radical, antisemitic, and unlawful protestors who have encamped on the university’s campus and surrounding District of Columbia public land for several days,” they stated in the letter. 

American University Student Government Senator At-Large, Kaden Ouimet, has been at the encampment on-and-off since its first day on April 25. He told The Eagle that he has not experienced what the lawmakers described in their letter. 

“I've only felt a sense of community, a sense of love and a sense of solidarity,” Ouimet said. “Hate doesn't have a place at our encampment. Antisemitism doesn’t have a place at our encampment.” 

Donning a Reagan-Bush tee-shirt and an American flag tied around his neck, Michael Brown, a GW sophomore in the Corcoran School of the Arts & Design, said he thinks the representatives’ calls are valid. 

“I want to be honest, it’s like this is fucking bullshit,” Brown told the Eagle. “There are people in the law school that are paying tens, if not hundreds of thousands, of dollars to go here, and they have to listen to all this crap all day, every day, when they’re trying to take their finals."

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William Youman, an associate professor in GW’s School of Media and Public Affairs, called the press conference “grandstanding” and not a “real debate or discussion.”

“I would just say they should read the Constitution,” he said of the visiting representatives.

Youman said GW’s administration should be negotiating with the protestors to find a “peaceful solution to a peaceful protest,” rather than sending in police or “using violence against nonviolent protesters.”

“That’s just extremely unwise. And it runs counter to the purpose of the university as well as being troubling from a free speech perspective,” Youman said.

Boebert called the signs she saw in the encampment disgusting. 

She told the press she saw signs reading “Queer and trans folk for liberated Palestine,” “Gays for Gaza,” “Lesbians for Palestine,” “ Chinese for Palestine,” “From the River to the Sea, Palestine will be free” and “All cops are bastards.”

“Let me be clear — almost every single person in this so-called liberated zone would be eviscerated by the very terrorists you’re standing here supporting,” Boebert continued. 

Boebert also called out faculty who are supporting the encampment, saying if “they don’t do something to address [the encampment],” they can “kiss [their] federal funding goodbye.”

According to The Hatchet, Boebert told a reporter that the encampment may be reaching the point where Bowser should call in the National Guard as Bowser has “not allowed Metropolitan Police to do their job.”

No arrests have been made at the GW encampment so far, though a person was removed by GW police. 

As the number of protester arrests on campuses nationwide approaches 1,000, with only two schools successfully negotiating with protesters, DMV students show no signs of slowing down. 

“What they’re doing is incredibly courageous, calling attention to the genocide that our congress fully supports, that our president has backed,” Youman said. “This is the conscience of the country, and we need to be protecting that conscience.”

This article was edited by Walker Whalen, Tyler Davis and Abigail Turner. Copy editing done by Luna Jinks and Isabelle Kravis. 

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