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Tuesday, May 21, 2024
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2/9 protest cover

Protesters set up second encampment at GW after first one cleared

Police arrested one protester following crowd dispersal

Protesters at George Washington University set up a second encampment around 8 p.m. Thursday night on F Street between 19th and 20th streets, only one day after Metropolitan Police Department officers cleared the encampment on University Yard and arrested over 30 demonstrators. 

MPD officers arrested one protester, who allegedly assaulted an officer, after the crowd had dispersed, according to a DMV Palestinian Youth Movement Instagram post

The GW Student Coalition for Palestine called for a rally at 5 p.m. Thursday outside of University Yard in an Instagram post. The group rallied for around two hours on H and 21st streets before marching two blocks to F Street and pitching tents outside 1918 F Street NW, which houses GW administrative offices, according to The Hatchet, GW’s student newspaper.

About 30 MPD officers on bicycles formed a line on F Street, facing over 100 protesters who linked arms to protect the encampment. Speakers, who were part of the protest negotiation team, condemned MPD’s clearing of the University Yard and H Street encampment. 

Throughout the night, protesters played music, danced and repeated chants such as “Hands off Gaza now” and “Up, up with liberation; down, down with occupation.” Organizers also played voice notes from people in Gaza thanking DMV PYM and GW Students for Justice in Palestine

2/9 protestors laughing

Around 11:21 p.m., the number of MPD officers on F Street tripled, some wearing riot gear and goggles. Officers gave their first warning at 11:28 p.m. They said that protesters on the street and sidewalks were violating multiple codes such as unlawful entry on property and crowding, obstructing or incommoding and would be arrested if they did not disperse. 

Protesters began to loudly beat on drums and chant, while organizers told those in attendance to leave if they did not want to be arrested. This warning was given by organizers after every dispersal warning from MPD. 

2/9 cop line

Protesters began to move the tents from F Street to the intersection of 19th and F Street before MPD issued a second dispersal warning at 11:30 p.m. 

A third dispersal warning was given at 11:33 p.m. Organizers ordered the encampment to disperse after the fourth dispersal warning at 11:36 p.m. Protesters facing the police continued to link arms as they backed toward 19th and F Street to chants of “Hold the line.” 

Police gave a fifth warning at 11:35 p.m. as protesters continued to link arms at the intersection. The line of officers moved towards the intersection of 19th and F around 11:40 p.m. with their batons drawn. 

As protesters moved down 19th toward H Street, organizers called for the crowd to disperse for the night, saying that they “need to fight another day.” By 12 a.m. most of the crowd except for a small group of protesters and officers had left the scene. 

Around 12:30 a.m., officers arrested someone holding a camera, according to The Hatchet. It’s unclear why the arrest was made or what the altercation was that preceded it, although MPD alleged that he had assaulted an officer.

An Instagram post from the GW coalition called for a court support rally for a “GWU student and photographer” at 1 p.m. in front of the H. Carl Moultrie Courthouse. A post from around 2 p.m. shows video of the protester after being released with all charges dropped, according to the caption. 

Sarah Solon-Hanover, an American University alumna who protested Thursday night, said she thinks it’s important to have visibility “as a Jewish person who is against what Israel is doing in Palestine.”

“I am livid that the Biden administration and university administrations, Congress, everybody in power, is trying to equate being anti Zionist with being anti semitic or anti Jewish,” Solon-Hanover said. “That is simply not the case. There are so many Jewish students represented here… and there are Jewish community members like myself that are here supporting them and have been supporting them and have been supporting Palestine throughout this genocide.”

According to a tweet from The Hatchet, GW Dean of Students Colette Coleman said today that GW is “not considering changes to its ‘endowment investment strategy’ or academic partnerships.”

Coleman, GW President Ellen Granberg, GW Provost Chris Bracey and GW Chief Financial Officer Bruno Fernandes invited representatives from seven student groups that “represent Palestinian, Arab and Muslim GW students” to a 45-minute meeting at 1 p.m. today. 

Student groups requested the meeting be moved to 5 p.m., saying officials scheduled the meeting on short notice during the last day of finals and a Jummah, the obligatory Friday prayer for Muslims.

The groups also requested that Bracey be excluded from the meeting following his altercation with protesters at the University Yard encampment where he allegedly assaulted two students.

The meeting was live streamed on the DVM SJP Instagram account at 5 p.m. Bracey was not in attendance. Organizers planned to hold a press conference at 6 p.m. to share what they discussed.

During the meeting with Granberg, student representatives asked about the university administration’s decision to call for MPD to clear the encampment. According to Granberg, the final decision to clear the encampment came from MPD directly, and university administrators were not made aware until two hours before officers arrived. 

Student representatives reiterated their demands for the university and said they thought it would be in the university’s best interest to provide a date that it could disclose financial ties with Israel. Granberg said the university was not prepared to commit to financial transparency during today’s meeting. 

During the press conference, students from the negotiation team reiterated that they will continue working toward their ultimate goal of the university’s divestment and protection of pro-Palestine speech on campus. Organizers also said that they would not be satisfied with “collective sorrow” and will not rest until they achieve their demands. 

Moataz Salim, who is originally from Gaza, spoke at the press conference about the mental toll that comes from protesting and how it is “nothing compared to those in Palestine.”

“The blood of my own cousins is on my hands, it’s on all of our hands,” Salim said. “That’s why we’re demanding material change. We refuse to continue to hold the blood of the people in Gaza on our hands.”

Izzy Fantini contributed reporting to this article.

This article was edited by Abigail Hatting, Marina Zaczkiewicz and Abigail Turner. Copy editing done by Luna Jinks. 

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