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Wine bar on 2200 Penn opens doors
By Ella Mitchell, Contributing News Editor • June 14, 2024

House committee calls on Bowser, MPD chief to testify over encampment

Sage Russell | Senior Photo Editor

Updated May 1, 2024 at 1:42 p.m.

The House Committee on Oversight and Accountability will call on D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser and Metropolitan Police Department Chief Pamela Smith to testify next Wednesday at 1 p.m., a committee spokesperson said Wednesday.

The hearing is titled “Oversight of D.C.’s Response to Unlawful Activity and Antisemitism,” and committee Chair James Comer (R-KY) plans to announce more details soon, the spokesperson said.  

House Oversight Committee Chairman James Comer said in a statement that he is “deeply concerned” over reports that MPD rejected a request from the University to remove the “radical, antisemitic, and unlawful” protesters from University Yard.

Comer said the committee plans to ask local officials about the steps they will take to ensure the “unlawful” activity at the encampment ends.

“MPD’s refusal to assist GWU in their efforts to protect the Jewish student body is disturbing and unacceptable,” Comer said in the statement.

Bowser said during a press conference Wednesday morning that she would review the invitation from the Oversight committee. 

“I understand that a notice went out as I was standing here, and I will review that, and the city will definitely have a response,” she said.

She said she also reviewed a letter sent from a pair of congressional Republicans on Tuesday. The letter, from Comer and Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-NC), criticized MPD’s reported refusal to clear the GW encampment.

“I thought [the letter] was interesting. Now, the members have universities in their own districts, especially the member from North Carolina, and I was watching a lot of activity in North Carolina. It would seem that her energy was misplaced there.”

Congress has called several university leaders to testify about antisemitism on college campuses around the war in Gaza, including Columbia University President Minouche Shafik, who called New York Police Department officers to clear its pro-Palestinian encampment after her appearance in mid-April.

Bowser and MPD officials would likely be the first nonuniversity officials that Congress has asked to testify on encampments on college campuses. The last time Bowser and other city leaders testified before Congress was in May 2023 over concerns about rising crime rates in the District. 

The call to testify comes after Comer and House Committee on Education and Labor Chairwoman Virginia Foxx (R-NC) sent a letter to Bowser and MPD Chief Pamela Smith Tuesday, demanding answers on the department’s refusal to assist GW in clearing the encampment. 

The House Oversight Committee oversees D.C.’s municipal affairs.

MPD officers were preparing to arrest protesters in the encampment early Friday morning but were called off by senior officials in MPD and the mayor’s office due to the demonstration remaining peaceful, The Washington Post reported late Friday afternoon. 

“Chairman Comer and I are talking about what to do next,” Foxx told The Hatchet outside the House floor on Tuesday, referencing Congress oversight over D.C. due to the District’s lack of statehood.

The mayor’s office and GW officials met Tuesday to discuss the encampment. A spokesperson from the mayor’s office did not return a request for comment asking for information on the details of the meeting. 

Oversight committee members will also be meeting with GW officials and taking a walking tour through the University’s campus Wednesday afternoon to view the encampment.  

Over the past two days, since overrunning GW barricades blocking off U-Yard Sunday night, demonstrators have slowed their chants, holding more events like teach-ins, movie screenings and safety demonstrations. There are more than 150 protesters consistently inside the encampment, which still occupies a portion of H Street and now all of U-Yard.

This post was updated to include a statement from House Oversight Committee Chairman James Comer.

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