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Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown Students Remain in Encampment After Seven Days, Legislators’ Visit

At least six Georgetown University students remained at pro-Palestinian encampments at George Washington University (GWU) on May 1, seven days after the encampment began April 25.

More than 200 protesters and spectators, along with more than 50 tents, remain in GWU’s University Yard with a pile of overturned metal barricades in the center of the encampment. Security guards and officers from GWU’s police department (GWPD) and the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) are patrolling the perimeter.

Mark Lance, an organizer with Georgetown’s Faculty and Staff for Justice in Palestine (FSJP) and a professor of philosophy and justice and peace at Georgetown, said the continued student encampment represents continued support and hope from students despite the pushback from GWU’s administration. 

“The student movement continues to inspire and create hope,” Lance wrote to The Hoya. “Students from all over the DMV — students of all ethnicities and religions — have been working together in an impressively organized and forceful protest of ongoing war crimes.” 

Maren Fagan/The Hoya

Chalk and art at the encampment included sayings of “Israel bombs, GW pays,” “Just say no to Genocide Joe,” “Students say ceasefire” and “You are now entering Free GW.” Members of the encampment also painted on the statue of George Washington in University Yard, changing the acronym of GWU to Genocidal, Warmongering University, and have dubbed the encampment “GW Popular University of Gaza.” 

The encampment formed in protest against the Israeli military’s attacks on Gaza, which have killed over 40,000 civilians; the protests have included students from eight Washington, D.C.-area universities, including Georgetown

While GWPD and MPD have not attempted to clear the encampment, occasional conflicts have arisen between police and protesters. On April 28, members of the encampment overturned metal barricades that surrounded the encampment, moving them to the center of the encampment, in response to GWPD appearing to arrest a protester. Protesters then moved outside of University Yard, erecting tents on H Street NW. 

Maren Fagan/The Hoya

GWU denied that GWPD had arrested a protester and said the protesters’ breach and dismantling of the barriers is a violation of university guidelines and is not within their right of protest. 

“This is an egregious violation of community trust and goes far beyond the boundaries of free expression and the right to protest,” a spokesperson wrote in an April 29 press release. “The university will use every avenue available to ensure those involved are held accountable for their actions. We remain committed to implementing the safest resolution possible and have arranged for additional security resources to respond appropriately to this escalation.”

The GWU administration suspended seven students, and threatened further suspensions earlier on April 26, according to an Instagram post by GWU’s Student Coalition for Palestine.

According to Washington Post reports, MPD has declined pleas by GWU officials to intervene and clear the encampments, citing concerns over public image and the perception of breaking up the protest.

An MPD spokesperson described the protests as peaceful and declined to comment on the department’s procedures.

“The Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) regularly supports peaceful first amendment activities through the District of Columbia,” an MPD spokesperson wrote to The Hoya. “MPD does not comment on operational tactics and procedures.”

 “The George Washington University (GWU) Police Department has the lead in the response to first amendment demonstrations occurring on GWU grounds,” the spokesperson added. “Since Thursday, MPD has stood in support of its response. Demonstrations are also occurring on public space adjacent to the university. MPD will continue to monitor this first amendment activity, both on and off GWU property. This activity has remained peaceful.”

Lance said GWU’s response has been hostile to students’ free speech.

“The response of the GW administration has been absolutely hostile to the goals of education — this is a profoundly educational experiment in real democratic involvement — as well as to free speech, but thankfully cooler heads in the MPD have prevailed and the violence that GW administration called for has not happened,” Lance wrote.

Maren Fagan/The Hoya

In the afternoon of May 1, a cohort of Republican legislators visited GWU and hosted a press conference in front of the encampment.

Wielding a megaphone as protesters sought to drown her out, Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.) called on D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser, a Democrat, to intervene in clearing the encampment.

“Let me be very clear: almost every single person in this so-called ‘Liberated Zone’ would be eviscerated by the very terrorists you are standing here supporting,” Boebert said at the press conference. “We stand with Israel, we stand for peace in Washington, D.C., and the mayor must do something to step up and clear this.”

On the lawmakers’ walk-through of the encampment, Boebert attempted to pull down a Palestinian flag draped over a statue of George Washington.

Rep. Anna Paulina Luna (R-Fla.) lauded GWU for attempting to remove the encampment and resume classes without distractions. 

“Right now, we currently encourage the university and the faculty to ensure that these students are able to take their finals,” Luna said at the press conference. “If you are a parent and have a student at this university, I encourage you to contact the faculty and say thank you because they are doing everything that they can to ensure that everyone receives a right to education.”

Prior to the representatives’ visit, they met with GWU officials, according to a May 2 statement from GWU. 

“University officials met with the group in advance of their tour to inform the delegation about the current state of the demonstration and how GW has responded thus far,” the statement reads. “University officials reaffirmed their commitment to the safety of all students, freedom of speech, accountability for those who have violated university policy, and stability on the campus so students can complete their academic requirements and attend their graduation ceremonies.”

Maren Fagan/The Hoya

The House Committee on Oversight and Accountability, which includes Boebert and Luna, will hold a hearing May 8 to question Bowser and MPD Chief Pamela Smith over their handling of the encampment.

The DMV SJP Coalition, a coalition of college Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) groups from around the D.C. area, wrote in an Instagram post that the protesters’ solidarity would overcome the legislators’ desire to sweep the encampment.

“Hostile congressmembers came to the Popular University to attempt to force DC local government and MPD to clear out the camp,” the statement reads. “Moreover, they brought vicious Zionist agitators with them to try to provoke a response from the community as an excuse to escalate against us.”

“Our community remained steadfast,” the statement adds. “Their violence was drowned out by a people in defiance and commitment to justice, singing Palestinian folk songs celebrating our land. We showed them what it means to stand with Gaza and that our resistance is rooted in a love for our people.”

Although the encampment is based at GWU, protesters have also called on Georgetown to divest from its investments in companies linked to the Israeli military. Although University President John J. DeGioia (CAS ’79, GRD ’95) called for a ceasefire April 2, the university retains $31.2 million investments in Alphabet, the parent company of Google, and Amazon, both of which sell technology to the Israeli military.

Maren Fagan/The Hoya

A Georgetown University spokesperson did not immediately respond to The Hoya’s request for comment.

“Shame on Georgetown, 31.2 mil to genocide,” a sign hanging at the encampment reads. 

Lance said DeGioia’s call for a ceasefire is important, yet the continued investments in the companies supporting Israel must change. 

“Georgetown is to be commended for not restricting speech, for showing concern for all students, and President DeGioia is to be commended for endorsing a cease fire,” Lance wrote. “But at the same time, Georgetown continues to invest in corporations directly complicit in Israeli war crimes. This is inconsistent with our stated Jesuit values and basic morality. Georgetown, and all other universities, needs to divest and thereby put our economic power on the side of justice.”

Jack Willis contributed to reporting.

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