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Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Protesters Stage Competing Rallies at George Washington University

Maren Fagan/The Hoya

Student pro-Palestine protesters, including students from Georgetown University, held a “Rally for Gaza” at the ongoing tent encampment at George Washington University (GWU) while pro-Israel protesters held a competing rally, “A Rally Against Campus Antisemitism,” May 2.

Since April 25, pro-Palestine protesters have been encamped in GWU’s University Yard, calling for a ceasefire in Gaza and for Washington, D.C.-area universities to divest from companies with ties to Israel.

The pro-Palestine rally came on the eighth day of the encampment, which protesters have dubbed the “Popular University for Gaza.”

Isabelle Houghton (GRD ’24), a graduate student in Georgetown’s Master of Arts in Arab Studies (MAAS) program, and member of Zeytoun, a Georgetown graduate student, faculty and staff organization that advocates for decolonization in the Middle East and North Africa, said the protesters aim to make clear their opposition to universities’ continued engagement with companies supporting Israel.

“I think in terms of our goals, obviously calling for an immediate ceasefire in the genocide in Gaza, and also calling for a boycott, divestment, sanctions from Georgetown and other universities around the area,” Houghton told The Hoya.

While Georgetown President John J. DeGioia (CAS ’79, GRD ’95) has called for a ceasefire in Gaza and the return of hostages, GWU President Ellen Granberg has not. Neither university has announced its willingness to divest from companies linked to Israel.

At two competing rallies at George Washington University May 2, pro-Palestine protesters called for a ceasefire in Gaza and universities’ divestment from companies supporting Israel. (Maren Fagan/The Hoya)

A Georgetown University spokesperson said Georgetown community members can submit proposals regarding changes in the university’s investment to its Committee on Investments and Social Responsibility.

“Any member of the university community interested in submitting a written proposal for consideration can email the Committee on Investments and Social Responsibility (CISR),” the spokesperson wrote to The Hoya.

In 2017, CISR rejected a student proposal to divest from “companies that knowingly and consistently enable and profit from the violent Israeli occupation of Palestine,” among other companies.

Iklil Bouhmouch (GRD ’24), a member of Zeytoun, said the demonstration shows solidarity and representscollective liberation. 

“Despite their finals and other obligations, students are making time to join in protest, protect the encampment, and to generally volunteer their time, energy, and skills to the community: From our medical students acting as medics, to others serving food, and students and faculty marshaling,” Bouhmouch wrote to The Hoya. “Around the camp, I’ve seen acts of care amongst friends and strangers — people braiding each other’s hair, cleaning the camp, and even handing out popsicles on a hot day. Overall, this is an effort sustained by the community.”

Hannah Martin, a student at GWU, said protesters understand that pushing for divestment is crucial.

“The people as a collective understand the importance of what we’re doing here, they understand that we need to start with universities and other institutions’ material ties to the genocidal state of Israel in order for us to begin to make change,” Martin told The Hoya. “It also speaks to the fact that there’s a lot of love here. We’re fundamentally motivated by a care for each other and a care for the people in Gaza.”

Protesters chanted for divestment and proclaimed their solidarity with Gaza.

“Gaza, you are not alone, this campus is a freedom zone,” protesters chanted. “We will not be pushed aside, stop funding genocide.”

George Washington University said in a May 2 press release that GW is working with local and regional police and public safety organizations to monitor the protests.

“Demonstration activity remains active on H Street and GW’s University Yard,” the press release reads. “There is increased activity around GW’s G Street Park and University Yard. The Office of Emergency Management and GW Police Department expect a potential increase in pedestrian traffic, including demonstrators. GW’s Office of Emergency Management is collaborating with local and regional public safety organizations to monitor activity in the District and will send email and/or text alerts to the entire GW community if necessary.”

During the rally against antisemitism, speakers, including students from GWU and the University of Maryland, called for universities to protect Jewish students.

Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.) said he joined the protests to show support for Jewish students.

“I mean, this is a big deal,” Scott told The Hoya. “My daughter went to school here, so I’ve spent a lot of time on these streets.”

“I’ve talked to a lot of students here and other schools that are unsafe and so I think it is important to support these students,” Scott added.

Pro-Israel protestors rallied against antisemitism on college campuses May 2. (Maren Fagan/The Hoya)

Skyler Sieradzky, a senior at GWU, said she joined the pro-Israel protestors to show solidarity with other Jewish students and stand against antisemitism.

“We felt like it was important to show that we will stand strong in the face of antisemitism, that we are a proud Jewish body, that we will stand together as a community,” Sieradzky told The Hoya. “We will not let antisemitic remarks intimidate us to leave campus.”

“I’ve never been more proud to be Jewish,” Sieradzky added.

Gabrielle Guigui, a junior at George Washington and president of GW for Israel, a student advocacy group which aims to promote and celebrate Israel and helped promote the rally against antisemitism, said the rally showed Jewish students will remain strong and proud of their heritage.

“If anything today has demonstrated that we, the Jewish students at GW, are not alone in the fight against antisemitism and that fear, terror and intimidation have no place on our campus,” Guigui said at the rally. “We are strong, we are proud and we, the Jewish people, are here to stay. While others seek to deny our right to exist and call for our extermination, we stand tall, defiant against the forces of hatred and intolerance.”

Elizabeth Van Flandern (GRD ’24), another Zeytoun member and MAAS student as well as a GWU alumni, said Georgetown’s refusal to divest from companies with connections to Israel is out of keeping with its Jesuit values.

“Student solidarity is really important, uplifting our partner institutions, but also remembering that we still are pressuring our own institutions,” Van Flandern told The Hoya. “From our academic institutions that teach us about liberation, teach us about Jesuit values, teach us about being women and men for others, really, doubling down on that in action, and not just in words.”

Houghton said D.C. students have a unique responsibility to protest the conflict in Gaza.

“It’s just especially important that universities in Washington, D.C., students are participating, and universities are listening to us because they’re the ones who are educating people who are going into these positions of power,” Houghton said. “I think we just have a moral responsibility to participate.”

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About the Contributor
Evie Steele
Evie Steele, Executive Editor
Evie Steele is a sophomore in the SFS from New York, N.Y., studying international politics with minors in international development and Chinese. She has been on TV twice and has been quoted in Deadline once. [email protected]
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