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By Ella Mitchell, Contributing News Editor • June 14, 2024

Live coverage: Palestinian flag re-hoisted in U-Yard as encampment nears end of day nine

Sage Russell | Senior Photo Editor

Protesters awake on the ninth day of the encampment to GW Police Department officers’ overnight removal of the large Palestinian flag that the group hoisted at the south end of University Yard Thursday afternoon. 

GWPD officers cut ropes on the two flagpoles in front of Lisner Hall on Friday at around 3:30 a.m. following a GW Media Relations statement to community members Thursday night that condemned the flag’s hoisting as an “aggressive act of lawlessness.” The officers removed and returned the Palestinian flag to a demonstrator standing at the edge of the encampment and cut down the American flag that hung on the other pole. 

Later on Friday, GW staff hung a large American flag off the roof of Lisner. Hours later, protesters projected an image of President Joe Biden above the words “Genocide Joe” on the flag and re-hung the Palestinian flag on the Lisner flagpole.

The encampment entered its second week Thursday, which was marked by the eruption of two rallies just blocks apart on campus. While the pro-Palestinian group in U-Yard raised the large flag of Palestine, another crowd gathered at G Street Park across from Duques Hall to speak out against antisemitism. 

About 130 tents continue to span U-Yard and H Street as protesters engage in largely peaceful demonstrations. Protesters tore down the barricades that fenced off the U-Yard encampment Sunday night after a GWPD officer allegedly attempted to arrest a demonstrator, a claim that officials denied

Follow along for live updates below:

Updated: 2:55 a.m. — Demonstrators brace for continued rain 

A few demonstrators wearing ponchos and holding umbrellas have left their tents to convene in small groups towards the center of U-Yard. At least five demonstrators have left the encampment since the rain commenced at around 1:50 a.m. 

An organizer is walking around the encampment handing out ponchos to protesters.

Large puddles are beginning to form on the U-Yard walkways and along the sides of H Street. 

Updated: 1:57 a.m. — Rain commences 

A heavy rain is starting to fall on the encampment and demonstrators are rushing into their tents to stay dry. 

Updated: 1:43 a.m. — Demonstrators prepare for rain, play soccer on H Street

About 15 students are playing soccer on H Street as demonstrators in University Yard place tarps over their tents in preparation for forecasted rain overnight. 

A few demonstrators secure the tarps with rope while others converse outside of their tents in U-Yard. 

Organizers made several announcements on Friday about distributing tarps to help protesters keep their tents dry with rain expected this weekend. 

Updated: 11:51 p.m. — Protesters turn off projection 

At 11:35 p.m. demonstrators turned off the projection of President Joe Biden with “Genocide Joe” written underneath it. The American flag remains draped over the front of Lisner Hall. 

Updated: 11:03 p.m. — Counterprotesters approach  

At 10:52 p.m. a group of about seven counterprotesters entered from the southeast side of U-Yard and approached the pro-Palestinian demonstrators gathered by the steps of Lisner Hall. 

“Get off my campus,” a young male counterprotester said as two demonstrators approached. 

A group of about 20 protesters advanced toward the counterprotesters at the southeastern exit of U-Yard. Four GW Police Department officers stood in between the two groups and protesters asked the demonstrators gathered around the counterprotesters to not engage with them and go back to chanting. 

“Part of rejecting Zionism is rejecting Zionists in our liberated zone,” a demostrator yelled through a megaphone from the steps of Lisner. “Don’t engage with Zionists.”

“I need the energy up,” the protester yelled. “Free, free Palestine!”

Lexi Critchett | Assistant Photo Editor

Updated: 10:45 p.m. — Protesters rally before Palestinian flag  

About 30 demonstrators stand on the top of the steps of Lisner Hall holding megaphones and raising their fists in the air. More than 100 protesters stand on the lawn before them. The Palestinian flag waves in the wind in front of the projection of President Joe Biden’s face on the American flag beside it. 

“This campus has been so scared that they’ve had to resort to being real, real petty because they have no real power over anybody,” one demonstrator said over a speaker.

On Thursday, protesters strung a Palestinian flag on the flagpole outside Lisner, which remained hung for several hours until GW Police Department officers removed the flag early Friday morning. Several hours after its removal, GW staff unfurled a giant, University-issued American flag over the front of the building.

GW Media Relations sent a statement to community members at around 7 p.m. on Thursday saying demonstrators “illegally” hung the Palestinian flag and that GWPD officers are investigating the incident. A spokesperson said Friday that GWPD officers cut the lines on both U-Yard flagpoles Friday morning due to the protesters’ “illegal removal” of a GW flag Thursday when they raised the Palestinian flag onto the western pole.

“We’re not leaving,” the demonstrators chanted. 

“Our hearts beat for Palestine, and Palestine only, so until liberation and return, it’s “Free, free Palestine always,” the demonstrator said.

The demonstrator said rain is projected for the next few days but “the revolution will rain down harder.” 

“Hot or cold, rain or shine, we show up for Palestine,” the protesters chanted.

Sage Russell | Senior Photo Editor

Updated: 10:34 p.m. — Demonstrators hoist Palestinian flag in front of Lisner Hall 

At 10:29 p.m. demonstrators reached the steps of Lisner Hall and hoisted a Palestinian flag in the air from the left flagpole. 

“Whose flag, our flag,” the demonstrators chanted as a group of protesters hoisted the flag into the air. 

The projection of President Joe Biden remains plastered on Lisner Hall.

Updated 10:24 p.m. — About 100 protesters rally in center of U-Yard

About 100 protesters are now gathered in the center of U-Yard around a demonstrator waving a Palestinian flag in the air. 

“We don’t want no two state, we’re taking back 48,” the demonstrators chanted. 

Two protesters are beating drums and leading the crowd in chanting “From the belly of the beast, hands off the Middle East.”

At around 10:25 p.m. the demonstrators walked out of the center of the yard towards the steps of Lisner Hall to stand in front of the projection of President Joe Biden.

Updated 10:07 p.m. — Demonstrators project picture of President Joe Biden onto American flag

At about 10 p.m., demonstrators projected an image of President Joe Biden with “Genocide Joe” written underneath it onto the American flag that the University had placed over Lisner Hall at around 3:30 p.m., a few blocks away from the White House. 

Protesters then began chanting and drumming.

“Genocide Joe you can’t hide, you signed off on genocide,” protesters chanted.

Updated 9:52 p.m. — Protesters attend religious services 

Around 7:40 p.m. a group of nine demonstrators carried a 6-foot tall wooden cross to the middle of the encampment and began a service celebrating Orthodox Christian Good Friday. Reverend Tony Lee and Pastor Delonte Gholston were joined by a third speaker and discussed how the door to “redemption” is never closed and how it is “never too late” for the University to divest. 

“Oh God, that resurrection is coming, we will win,” the speaker said. 

The speakers said they would return on Sunday to commemorate Orthodox Easter. 

Just before 8:30 p.m. demonstrators hosted a Shabbat service where a crowd of about 80 demonstrators lit Shabbat candles and were led in song and prayer. Along with other prayers, protesters performed the Mourners’ Kaddish, a prayer often said to remember those who have passed.  

The speaker leading the service spoke briefly about the war in Palestine and said they mourn those killed in Gaza. They then passed out grape juice and challah to perform the Kiddush and Motzei prayers to conclude the service. 

The leader of the service then led the crowd in chants for Palestine. 

“Free, Free Palestine,” the crowd chanted.

Updated 8:51 p.m. — Bowser addresses GW encampment in newsletter

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser said in a newsletter sent to D.C. community members at about 5:45 p.m. Friday that she and the Metropolitan Police Department will continue to coordinate regularly with GW leadership to ensure the safety of the campus and students.

Bowser said she and MPD will not tolerate violence and will continue to ensure access to streets, parks and “safe and sanitary conditions.” 

“We will continue to be supportive of universities or other private entities who need help,” Bowser said in the newsletter.

Bowser said she and MPD support peaceful protests and that she relies on MPD officials’ “expertise” to decide when interventions are necessary during demonstrations. She said MPD Chief Pamela Smith will always have the “final say” on when MPD resources are deployed. 

“When MPD is called to help, they will always help,” Bowser said in the newsletter.

Bowser thanked MPD and the D.C. community for refusing to “escalate” division, acknowledging that the District is a place people come to air “grievances” with the government.

Updated 7:22 p.m. — Protesters listen to teach-in about government violence, surveillance 

Speakers from the Anti-Imperialist Coalition and the Pan African Coalition conducted a teach-in at about 4:45 p.m. to discuss D.C.’s recently signed crime bill and the U.S. government’s history of violence.

One speaker said the U.S. government uses surveillance technology as a means of oppression. The speaker cited the 1886 Haymarket affair, when police and union workers protesting police brutality fired at each other and the Federal Bureau of Investigations’ surveillance program which targeted members of the Black Panther party and other Black leaders. 

The speaker said police and University officials used similar repression and surveillance tactics against the encampment’s demonstrators, like when police allegedly attempted to arrest a protester and officials’ reported suspension of students. The speaker said on Sunday night they were a police liaison and officers asked him to identify a blurry photo of a demonstrator.

“This is the repression we’re currently facing,” the speaker said. “The students who were suspended and had their housing canceled, this is a tool of repression to try to threaten us and silence us with fear.” 

The second speaker said NATO, the world’s largest military alliance, will have a summit in D.C. in July. They said the U.S., in leading NATO, has used it to secure economic interests like oil reserves in the Middle East. 

The speakers said some schools teach that the U.S. is the protector of democracy but fail to provide education that the U.S. is an “empire.” The speaker also spoke about the surveillance and jailing of “revolutionaries,” like Black Panther Party founder Huey P. Newton and activist Angela Davis, who attempted to speak out against the government inside and outside the U.S. 

“We will not see a change in society unless we take action, the state will continue to defend its imperialist interests until it is decisively overthrown,” the speaker said. 

At one point during the teach-in, a bystander yelled “U.S.A.” at the crowd, prompting booing. 

“U.S. imperialist, number one terrorist,” the speaker said. 

The speakers then spoke about the U.S. government’s use of technology for surveillance, and said the use of camera footage to justify the alleged attempted arrest of a protester who tried to jump a barricade Sunday night was an example of the government using surveillance to suppress revolution. 

The speakers ended the teach-in by speaking about their intention to protest the NATO summit that is set to take place in D.C. this July. 

Updated: 4:47 p.m. — Demonstrators hold ‘tribunal’ for GW, officials, police

Demonstrators held a “popular tribunal” at about 3:30 p.m. condemning the University, the GW Police Department and top officials for their alleged suppression of students’ Pro-Palestinian speech. 

The faux trial charged a student stand-in of University President Ellen Granberg, dressed in a blazer and wig, along with Provost Chris Bracey, Director of Office of Student Rights and Responsibilities Christy Anthony, and Dean of Students Colette Coleman with repressing pro-Palestinian demonstrations, targeting of students, barricading the encampment and the detainment of a student demonstrator. 

Demonstrators charged the Board of Trustees with “having invested in the genocide of the Palestinian people.” It appears to be the first time demonstrators have mentioned Board Chair Grace Speights in their chants. 

Lexi Critchett | Assistant Photo Editor

Updated: 3:51 p.m. — What the University won’t talk about

Hatchet editors have sent GW spokespeople a flurry of requests and questions over the past week and a half. Some have been answered via statements to the public, like Sunday’s confrontation between police and protesters that led to demonstrators dismantling barricades and Thursday’s fight for control of a flagpole outside Lisner Hall.

But many of The Hatchet’s questions have gone unanswered. Here’s a collection of outstanding questions and requests:

  • Last Thursday, the first day of the encampment, The Hatchet asked why University President Ellen Granberg had not visited the protest despite the presence of many other top University officials. The Hatchet also asked why officials placed barricades around Kogan Plaza. 
  • Last Friday, The Hatchet asked for a sit-down interview with Granberg by the end of the semester, which would have been her first sit-down with The Hatchet in nearly an entire academic year. GW hasn’t said whether there will be an interview.
  • On Sunday, The Hatchet asked six questions about how and why officials set up barricades around the U-Yard encampment, which protesters have since torn down. Questions included why officials added more barricades to limit the encampment’s space on Saturday, how long GW planned to keep barricades up, and why GW added barricades when many other universities in the U.S. haven’t.
  • On Monday, The Hatchet noted that electrical outlets in U-Yard had stopped working and asked officials if they had shut them off, and if so, why.
  • On Tuesday, The Hatchet asked for a sit-down interview with Provost Chris Bracey. The Hatchet planned to ask Bracey about Sunday night video footage that shows him grabbing at a phone camera that a protester was holding. The Hatchet also asked about an email from the Office of Ethics, Compliance and Risk that said the incident was “under review.”
  • Also on Tuesday, The Hatchet asked about GW’s long-term plans for the encampment. Questions included whether GW plans to clear the encampment, how long officials expect to keep Kogan Plaza closed, whether officials plan to relocate exams scheduled to be held in buildings adjacent to U-Yard, and whether officials reassigned residence hall security guards to U-Yard and Kogan Plaza.
  • The Hatchet also asked about a Washington Post report that Metropolitan Police Department officials refused to assist GWPD in clearing the encampment. GW has not answered questions about whether they requested MPD to clear the encampment.
  • On Thursday, The Hatchet again asked why Granberg had not made a public appearance at the encampment and if she planned on visiting the protest.
  • Also on Thursday, Hatchet reporters heard GWPD officers tell people inside the Media and Public Affairs Building that the building had closed because of concerns over vandalism and that non-GW-affiliated people had been entering the building. The Hatchet asked what vandalism had caused the closure of the building and whether faculty would be able to access their offices in the building.

Updated 3:36 p.m. — GW hangs giant American flag from Lisner Hall

At about 3:30 p.m., unknown, older individuals hung a giant American flag from the roof of Lisner Hall. Some people booed, most stood quietly and watched. 

“I think we can pay more attention to what’s going on here than those assholes up there,” an organizer announced over the megaphone after they draped the flag. 

Shortly after the flag was hung from Lisner Hall, a reporter for The Hatchet walked onto the roof for about 30 seconds, where there were about eight people. Yelling, the staff asked who he was with, and the reporter told them The Hatchet. A GW Police Department officer then escorted him out of the building. While walking down the stairs, the officer repeatedly said into his radio that “the flag is authorized by the University.”

A University spokesperson said GW “authorized and hung” the giant American flag on Lisner Hall after GW staff removed an American flag from the eastern flag pole Friday. She said the GWPD officers cut the lines on both U-Yard flagpoles Friday morning due to the protesters’ “illegal removal” of a GW flag Thursday when they raised a giant Palestinian flag onto the western pole.

“The university can confirm that a new American flag has been placed on Lisner Hall to replace the American flag that was removed by GW personnel early Friday morning,” the spokesperson said in an email.

The spokesperson declined to comment on whose idea it was to hang the flag, how long GW will leave the flag hanging and why officials put up the flag.

This post was updated with a comment from a University spokesperson at 6:42 p.m.

Kaiden J. Yu | Assistant Photo Editor

Updated 3:20 p.m. — Staff Council statement

The GW Staff Council sent an email to staff members with a statement saying they are “committed” to creating an environment that includes inclusivity, respect and support. The email also says they “extend our support and empathy” to those affected by the situation in the Middle East but don’t name Israel or Gaza. 

“We encourage members of our community to demonstrate compassion and grace and be mindful of how profoundly our words and deeds can affect others on a personal level,” the email states.

The email concludes by saying the Staff Council is listening to concerns from staff members and “elevating” them to University officials. They included a Google form and email for staff to submit their concerns.

Updated 2:31 p.m— U-Yard construction continues

Construction workers have resumed work Friday on waterproofing outside the law school, which they have paused work on since the encampment was first pitched last week. Brian Snyder, the interim assistant vice president of construction management and campus planning, said at the University Campus Plan Advisory Committee last month the project would end in May. 

Kaiden J. Yu | Assistant Photo Editor

Updated 1:04 p.m— Community meeting

At about 12:00 p.m., organizers hosted a community meeting in the center of U-Yard and gave security and supply updates for the encampment. Organizers said they will begin holding community meetings daily at 11 a.m. 

An organizer began the meeting by reviewing Friday’s programming schedule and the encampment’s security protocol. An organizer said protesters should not engage with cops or “hostile media” but protesters should direct all media inquiries to media liaisons and direct communication with police to the encampment’s police liaisons in orange vests. 

“Some of this media is hostile media, some of this media is friendly media. Not all of you guys know which one is which,” the organizer said. “Many of these media outlets are interested in co-opting our message or are interested in spinning things in order to present us in a light that is not accurate and is not true to our goals.” 

Organizers said protesters should make sure they are returning supplies like sleeping bags, tents and portable chargers to the supply tents on H Street. They said they are prioritizing people who are sleeping overnight and who have been at the encampment for its entire duration for meal distribution because there have been “really long lines” for food over the past few days. 

Organizers said that janitorial duties are a “community responsibility” and protesters should make sure they are cleaning up their spaces. They said protesters should use reusable water bottles inside the encampment and to use any extra water they have to support the community garden located in the northeast corner of U-Yard. 

“We’re here, building a world that we want to see and part of that world is building a communal relationship with the land that’s not focused around exploitation,” the organizer said. “That responsibility here is that we are working on this project of radical world making that is centered around community, that is centered around the needs of everyone.” 

At the end of the meeting, a protester said living inside the encampment and utilizing its supply is a “privilege.” They said they want protesters to stand in solidarity with unhoused populations across the D.C. area during the demonstration. 

“We’re surrounded by unhoused populations in D.C. that are constantly facing sweeps by D.C. government so please we want to focus on feeding our unhoused neighbors and providing support to them and providing a welcoming community.” 

Updated 12:24 p.m— Group reading

Starting at about 10:20 a.m., roughly 15 protesters sat on blankets in the center of U-Yard to listen to an organizer read excerpts from “Strategy for the Liberation of Palestine,” a book by the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, and discussed the history and meaning of the text. 

The book states that it acts as a guide for the actions of the Palestine liberation movement.

Updated 10:47 a.m— Friday programming schedule

The GWU Student Coalition for Palestine posted their scheduled programming for Friday on their Instagram story.

At 11 a.m., a collective study and discussion.

At 1:10 p.m., Salat al-Juma’ah prayer.

At 2 p.m., lunch.

At 3:30 p.m., people’s tribunal.

At 4:30 p.m., a discussion on the D.C. crime bill and state repression with Pan-African Community Action, International League of Peoples’ Struggle Mid-Atlantic and Resist NATO Coalition.

At 5 p.m., Asr prayer.

At 5:30 p.m., Kashmir to Palestine, a collective liberation teach-in.

At 8:05 p.m., Maghrib and Khatira prayer.

At 9:45 p.m., Isha prayer.

At 10 p.m., film screening.

Updated 10:20 a.m— Encampment cleanup

At about 10 a.m., an organizer announced that breakfast was ready for protesters and that they will conduct a full encampment cleanup this morning. Some protesters walked around the encampment with trash bags collecting discarded materials around U-Yard. A large rolling trash bin sits near the northeast corner of the encampment.

The recycling and trash bins at the northwest entrance of U-Yard are overflowing, but facilities workers have not emptied the bins as of 10:12 a.m. Facilities workers have circled U-Yard to empty the trash and recycling bins before 8 a.m. Wednesday and Thursday. Other trash and recycling bins around the perimeter of U-Yard are not overflowing, but a full trash bag lies on the side one of the trash bins on the Stockton Hall patio.

Updated 9:37 a.m— More protesters rise, some leave encampment

Songs including Ya Tair El Werwar and Bektoub Ismak Ya Habibi by Lebanese artist Fairuz play over a speaker in the center of the encampment, drawing demonstrators outside of their tents. 

Protestors have started to walk around the encampment, getting food and drinks from the tents on H Street. Some protesters packed their bags for the day and left the encampment, likely headed to their jobs, to study for finals or other responsibilities. Others can be seen brushing their teeth and stretching in preparation for the day ahead.

Updated 9:25 a.m— MPD Chief of Police reasserts decision to not clear encampment

Metropolitan Police Department Chief of Police Pamela Smith said Thursday that officers do not intend to clear the U-Yard encampment after the demonstration reached its one week mark, NBC4 Washington reported. Smith said protesters are exercising their freedom of speech and have not been violent. 

The House Committee on Oversight and Accountability called on Smith and D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser to testify next Wednesday at 1 p.m. about reports that MPD refused to clear the encampment last Friday after GW officials requested their assistance to remove protesters.

Updated 9:12 a.m— SMPA building emergency mode lifted

The School of Media and Public Affairs Affairs building will be accessible by tap access on the 21st Street entrance Friday, according to an email sent by College of Professional Studies Dean Liesl Riddle to faculty and staff who use the building. Officials placed the building in emergency mode Thursday evening and shut off GWorld card tap access due to concerns of vandalism and non-GW individuals accessing the building.

Riddle’s email states that a security guard will monitor the entrance and she suggests faculty and staff who regularly use the building work from home because officials may place the building in emergency mode again.

Updated: 6:27 a.m. — Temperatures drop overnight 

After five days of 80 degree heat, temperatures dropped to 64 degrees overnight. Temperatures are set to reach a high of 77 degrees this afternoon.

A few protesters are beginning wake, wrapping blankets around themselves as they step out of their tents.

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