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Officials shutter libraries, alert GW community ahead of pro-Trump demonstrations

Hatchet File Photo
GW’s 12 peer schools are taking similar steps to address the COVID-19 pandemic, like offering students housing and dining refunds.

Officials shuttered libraries on campus and urged students to “remain vigilant” Tuesday ahead of demonstrations supporting President Donald Trump as the city braces for two days of protests that many locals fear could turn violent.

In an advisory issued to the University community, officials announced that Gelman, Himmelfarb and Jacob Burns Law libraries will shut down in-person services amid the demonstrations scheduled for Tuesday and Wednesday in opposition to the 2020 election results, but the rest of the Foggy Bottom campus will maintain its regular operations. The advisory states that disruptions, although not expected to reach campus, could affect businesses and government services “in the impacted area” of protest activity. 

“While there is no specific or direct threat to the GW community at this time, the University strongly encourages students, faculty and staff not living in the District to be mindful of the Mayor’s request and avoid the downtown area by maximizing virtual learning and telework,” the advisory reads.

Officials said the libraries will still offer virtual services, and the University will continue offering COVID-19 testing at the Marvin Center and Shenkman Hall and the Medical Faculty Associates’ vaccine clinic at the Lerner Health and Wellness Center. The University’s message also noted the city’s street closures and parking restrictions, which are concentrated near the White House, Downtown, Penn Quarter and the National Mall but stop at 18th Street NW before reaching campus.

The advisory is the second notice in two days alerting the University community of the protests and potential disruptions off campus. Officials said they believe this week’s demonstrations will resemble previous pro-Trump gatherings held in November and December, both of which involved violence between Trump supporters and counterprotesters.

The advisory urges students to “remain vigilant,” recommending they prepare for traffic, carry their GWorld card at all times, avoid engaging with demonstrators seeking confrontation and ensure doors on campus are closed and locked before leaving a building. Students should seek shelter indoors or contact the GW Police Department if necessary, and letting strangers into University buildings is prohibited, the advisory states.

As officials continue to monitor the status of public activity in the District, they said they will issue additional email and text advisories as needed and continue to update the University community with safety and security alerts on the University’s campus advisories website.

The advisory comes a day after city leaders extended their own public safety alert to locals, with officials urging residents to avoid demonstrations downtown and announcing the activation of 300 members of D.C.’s National Guard. Acting Metropolitan Police Department Chief Robert Contee said some protesters from outside the District may be intent on illegally carrying firearms into the city.

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