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Tuesday, May 21, 2024
Tuesday May 21, 2024
Tuesday May 21, 2024

D.C. Police decline GWU request to clear campus protesters

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Amid escalating university demonstrations, D.C. Police opt against removing pro-Palestinian protesters from George Washington University, citing concerns over potential escalation and public image

In the early hours of Friday morning, D.C. police decided against clearing a group of pro-Palestinian demonstrators from George Washington University, despite requests from university officials. This decision highlights a cautious approach by city authorities amidst a backdrop of increasing campus protests across the nation.

D.C. police, gathered and ready by 3 a.m., ultimately stood down following directives from senior officials in the police chief’s and mayor’s office. The officials, speaking under the condition of anonymity, expressed concerns about the potential for negative optics should the situation escalate into violence, given the peaceful nature of the protests and the sensitivity of the issue at a national level.

The protest, which took place in University Yard along H Street, saw a small but committed group of demonstrators advocating against the war in Gaza. The police and city officials decided to monitor the situation closely rather than intervene, allowing the university to handle the encampment by setting up barricades and restricting access to the area.

This restraint reflects a broader trend in how D.C. police handle demonstrations, which are frequent in the nation’s capital. The department often prefers negotiation and voluntary compliance over forceful removal, especially in politically sensitive contexts. “We are continually assessing and evaluating the circumstances on the ground to inform our response,” stated a D.C. police spokesperson, emphasizing a strategy of careful observation and response.

The decision not to intervene directly contrasts with actions taken in other cities where police have engaged more aggressively with campus protesters. In Boston, Southern California, Atlanta, and Texas, law enforcement has taken more direct actions, including the use of force and arrests, leading to several confrontations and injuries.

The reluctance of D.C. police to clear the GWU encampment also stems from memories of past incidents, particularly the June 2020 confrontation in Lafayette Square, where forceful dispersal of protesters led to national outrage and criticism. City officials appear keen to avoid repeating such scenes, which have historically resulted in negative publicity and public backlash.

By late Friday, the number of protesters had reduced significantly, prompting the university to issue warnings of potential suspensions or administrative actions against those who remained. Despite these warnings, student government association president Arielle Geismar urged the administration to avoid violence and forceful measures, highlighting concerns over student safety and the repercussions of aggressive police actions seen elsewhere

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