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Hundreds of protesters overrun barricades blocking off pro-Palestinian encampment

An organizer stands at the top of a mountain of barricades Sunday night while another protester waves a Palestinian flag.

Hundreds of protesters broke through barricades blocking access to the pro-Palestinian encampment in University Yard on Sunday night.

At 11:28 p.m. students toppled the barricade between U-Yard and H Street after one GW Police Department officer, supported by three others, held the arms of a protester inside the encampment behind his back and moved him toward the encampment’s northwest barricade. Immediately after, one of the three officers removed his baton from its holster.

Protesters on H Street — where a second encampment has formed following officials’ construction of a fence around U-Yard Friday morning — surged to the barricade, forcing an impasse, chanting “Let him go” and “Shame on you.”

A University statement issued at 6:30 a.m. said “professional organizers,” University students and activists joined the “unauthorized” U-Yard encampment.

“This is an egregious violation of community trust and goes far beyond the boundaries of free expression and the right to protest,” the statement reads. “The university will use every avenue available to ensure those involved are held accountable for their actions.”

The statement says the University is aware of reports of an attempted arrest — the statement said those reports are false, and that a student jumped over the barricade and was being escorted out by GWPD.

The statement said the University has arranged for additional security resources to respond to the demonstration and that MPD remains on the scene.

“Despite the ongoing disturbance on University Yard, GW is open and operating with enhanced safety measures.” the statement reads. “We will release additional details as the situation evolves.”

Raphael Kellner | Staff Photographer

Students pressed phone cameras into the faces of officers as they pushed against the barriers. Additional protesters, police reinforcements and members of the press pushed their way around the barricade and into the encampment during the chaos, and police held the line, keeping most of the crowd at bay.

Organizers said demonstrators were able to “de-arrest” the detained protester as chants from the crowd against the police continued.

After a brief struggle, protesters pushed over the northwest barricade, breaking through the line of police and tearing down the rest of the metal fences surrounding the plaza as they surged into U-Yard. In moments, after more than 90 hours of protesting, the barrier that had separated demonstrators inside and outside U-Yard was gone.

Students streamed through the central entrance of U-Yard, hopping the barricade before it fell. They rushed into the U-Yard encampment shortly after, centralizing around the George Washington statue in the center of the square, locked together, arm-in-arm.

“GW, shame on you, you endanger students too,” speakers shouted.

More students piled into U-Yard through the central entrance from H Street.

“F*ck your barricade,” protesters yelled.

Police briefly reconstructed the northwest barricade, but within an hour, students had broken through again. Organizers yelled through a megaphone to tear down the barricades, and in groups, protesters grabbed the fences from all corners of U-Yard and tossed them into a heap in the center of the plaza while chanting and clapping.

At the north entrance, organizers urged onlookers to storm the plaza and join protesters in the center of U-Yard. Dozens more flooded in. Others grabbed tents from the H Street encampment and the northern corners of U-Yard and dragged them across the grass to every corner of the plaza — reclaiming the space that officials had fenced them out of Friday morning.

Hundreds of demonstrators surrounded the pile of barricades in U-Yard. Just before midnight, one person climbed on top of the mountain of metal to echo students’ demands: dropping the charges against pro-Palestinian student organizers and organizations, protecting pro-Palestinian speech on campus, divesting from companies selling technology and weapons to “the Zionists,” immediately disclosing all endowments and investments and ending all academic partnerships with Israel.

As the night continued, demonstrators climbed the mound of barricades and stood at the peak, waving Palestinian flags and chanting with the crowd.

“The revolution is here,” an organizer said while standing on the barricades. “Admin, y’all ready to have that meeting?”

Protesters dissolved into chants for the next two hours as they maintained the circle around the seized barricades. The organizer assured the crowd there was no “imminent” threat of arrest.

Provost Chris Bracey arrived at U-Yard at about 12:45 a.m., and three students stood in his path, with one blocking him with his body to keep him from entering. A crowd of roughly 20 students followed Bracey through the plaza, facing a barrage of shouts and video recordings.

“This is your biggest nightmare,” a protester said.

“You think I’m afraid of this?” Bracey replied.

Bracey then paused in front of Lisner Hall for several minutes, flanked by GWPD officers, and stared into students’ cameras before heading into the building.

The Student Coalition for Palestine posted a video on Instagram at about 1:30 a.m. that appears to show Bracey walking away from demonstrators. A demonstrator recorded Bracey while trying to speak with him and Bracey appeared to grab his phone.

GWPD Chief James Tate arrived on scene by about 12:45 a.m. Monday, flanked by two other officers. He spoke on the phone and remained largely relegated to the southwest corner of U-Yard near the Textile Museum and the space outside Lisner Hall.

Daniel Heuer | Staff Photographer

About a dozen MPD officers were stationed around the perimeter of U-Yard through the night, and another 16 officers stood a block away near the Academic Center for a couple of hours after the overrunning of the barricades.

“We need 400 officers to effectively do anything,” a GWPD officer was heard saying.

Protesters stopped chanting and began settling into tents for the night at around 2:30 a.m. They moved the medic tent inside U-Yard at 3:47 a.m. Organizers said they would offer a tutorial on the portable bathroom in the morning.

Roughly 85 tents sit in U-Yard as of 4 a.m. Monday, roughly double the amount that stood in the plaza earlier this evening. Some protesters are nestled outside under trees, in hammocks and on the central grass. About 24 tents remain on H Street.

“No matter what you see in your chats, no matter what anyone says to scare you, we’re gonna f*cking stay,” an organizer said.

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About the Contributor
Erika Filter, News Editor
Erika Filter is a senior majoring in international affairs from Carson City, Nevada. She leads the Metro beat as one of The Hatchet's 2023-2024 news editors and previously served as the assistant news editor for the Student Government beat.
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