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Live coverage: Encampment’s tenth day met with rain, temperature drops

Arwen Clemans | Staff Photographer
The George Washington statue in University Yard on May 4, the day of a GW official’s email to the D.C. deputy mayor.

Pro-Palestinian protesters in the University Yard encampment strapped tarps to tents, gathered umbrellas and layered ponchos over their clothes as puddles of rainwater formed overnight and into the morning on Saturday.

Rain began to fall at around 1:50 a.m. and persisted through the night, with temperatures dropping to 52 degrees after hovering at around 80 degrees all week. The inclement weather prompted many protesters to retire to their tents shortly after 11:35 p.m. on Friday when organizers turned off their projection of President Joe Biden with “Genocide Joe” written underneath it displayed on Lisner Hall.

At about 10 p.m. on Friday, demonstrators projected the image onto a giant American flag that officials had unfurled from the Lisner roof at around 3:30 p.m. after GW Police Department officers cut the lines on Lisner flagpoles in the early morning, removing a Palestinian flag that demonstrators had strung up on Thursday. At 10:29 p.m. on Friday demonstrators re-hoisted the Palestinian flag onto Lisner’s flagpole. 

Saturday marks the first day of final exams on campus. Provost Chris Bracey sent an email to students on Thursday announcing that exams scheduled to be held in Bell, Corcoran, Lisner and Samson halls as well as the Media and Public Affairs Building would be relocated to prevent noise distractions from the encampment. 

Follow along for live updates below:

Updated 3:26 a.m. — Protesters fall asleep under heavy rainfall

Water streams off of canopies and tarps across the encampment as heavy rain falls on U-Yard. Most demonstrators have retired into water-proofed tents for the night.

About seven demonstrators sit underneath a canopy conversing. The smell of incense occasionally wafts through the air.

Updated: 1:31 a.m. — Intermittent rainfall persists through the night

Light rain sprinkles down on the encampment, with heavier rain falling sporadically in short bursts. Some protesters are still awake at 1:30 a.m., and most have taken cover under canopies in U-Yard and H Street.

About two GWPD officers are strolling through the encampment. 

Updated: 9:45 p.m. — Demonstrators participate in open mic 

At around 9 p.m. about 50 demonstrators huddled under four large tents in the center of University Yard to listen to an open mic where community members presented poems, songs and speeches as rain drizzled down. 

“Art is so crucial to any resistance,” an organizer said before the program started. 

One demonstrator shared a poem about the ongoing war in Gaza.

“I’m sorry if this isn’t very poetic,” the demonstrator said. “I want to write about love, it still exists. I see it when people across the world connect over distant waters, sharing messages over waves and digital planes.”

“Genocide is not poetic,” the end of the poem read. 

Next a demonstrator read a poem about resistance.

“To resist is to love fiercely,” the demonstrator said. “With every defined breath and unwavering heartbeat, it is to stand tall in the face of oppression rooted like an olive tree in the sacred soil of home.” 

At about 9:15 p.m. a Jewish student spoke about not feeling safe at a university where administrators have the “blood of thousands of innocents on their hands.”

“I want to recognize the American representatives working to further the Israeli cause,” the demonstrator said. “Without this glorious nation Israel could not operate with the freedom they are right now.”

At about 9:18 p.m. a demonstrator read a poem titled “Find Me the Words” about their struggle to find the right language to describe the current crisis.

“How do you write poetry about something no metaphors can save,” the demonstrator asked. “How do you categorize a hurricane of injustice and oppression to one that captures the gravity of it all.”

Poems and speeches were intermittently met with snaps and affirming hums from the audience.

Updated: 8:01 p.m. — May 4 is the 54th anniversary of the Kent State shootings

The tenth day of the encampment marks the 54th anniversary of a shooting at Kent State University, where the National Guard killed demonstrators protesting the Vietnam war.

Michael Marceau, a Vietnam war veteran and president of the D.C. chapter of Veterans for Peace, visited the U-Yard encampment on Friday after Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-CO) told The Hatchet that the mayor may need to consider calling in the National Guard to clear the encampment. Marceau said he is speaking out against calls to bring the National Guard to clear encampments across the country. 

On May 4, 1970, the Ohio National Guard shot into a crowd of protesters who were decrying the U.S. government’s role in the Vietnam war and the draft, killing four and wounding nine. The shooting sparked outrage across the country and has served as a testimony for the necessity of protecting students’ freedom of speech and civil rights on campus. 

“I’m hearing talk from Republican leader of the House, Speaker of the House and several Republican senators that we should send in National Guard back on to campus,” Marceau said. “I’m here to say don’t do it, we did it once it didn’t work, it’s ugly and we’re not gonna have it done again.”

Marceau said he was serving in the Vietnam war when the Kent State shooting occurred, and grappled with the idea that the National Guard had shot and killed a group of peaceful protesters. 

“I heard about Kent State and I remember sitting on my bunk and crying, and thinking I’m not here so national guardsmen can go over to college campuses and kill peaceful, unarmed students who are speaking out against the Vietnam War,” Marceau said. 

Marceau said he stands with the students at the encampment and is glad they are continuing to utilize student protest, even 54 years after the tragedy. 

“I’m here to support the students. I’m saying what they’re doing, what you all are doing, is a great job and very necessary and you’re carrying on the tradition of your ancestors, so to speak, in the peace and justice movement,” Marceau said.

Updated: 7:22 p.m. — Protesters attend vigil for children in Gaza outside of White House

Pro-Palestinian protestors held a silent vigil for children in Gaza outside of the White House on Saturday afternoon.

The vigil, which organizers hold daily from 4:30 p.m. to 7 p.m., drew over 35 protesters to the White House — the largest group an organizer said they had seen show up to protest. 

Some protesters brought their children while others appeared to be over the age of 65. College students also attended the vigil, some donning sweatshirts with the GW logo.

Demonstrators held signs that read “Biden: stop starving + cluster bombing children” and “In Palestine, zionists murdered 15000 children, 2000 lost limbs, 17000 orphaned. Zionist Joe Biden, shame on you.”

Marione Ingram, a Holocaust survivor, said she has been protesting at the White House daily for the past six months to speak out for those whose voices are “stilled.” She said she is one of the “luckiest” people in the world because she survived the Bombing of Hamburg and firebombing during World War II, and now wants to help the children in Gaza who are suffering. 

“What was being done to me, I see being done to Gazan children and I’m here because it’s important that we speak up,” Ingram said. 

Carrie Muniack, one of the vigil’s organizers, said she has protested daily since the end of March, and is calling on the U.S. government to terminate their financial support of the “genocide” in Gaza.

Updated: 6:09 p.m. — Community meeting 

At around 5:35 p.m. organizers held a community meeting to reiterate demonstrators’ demands and emphasize guidelines for protesters who are living in the encampment. 

An organizer began the meeting by listing names of children, civilians and journalists who have been killed by the Israeli military in Gaza. Protesters chanted “shame” in response to each story the organizer shared. 

The organizer then told demonstrators not to talk to students from the School Without Walls, administrators, officers, counter protesters or anyone with a camera. The organizer asked protesters to direct all questions to police and media liaisons. 

“You see how many cameras come through here, everything we do is being scrutinized,” the organizer said.

Updated: 5:41 p.m. — Counterprotester tears Palestinian flags off of George Washington statue 

At about 5:20 p.m. a male counterprotester entered U-Yard from the north entrance and ripped two Palestinian flags off of the George Washington statue, taking one with him and leaving the other on the ground. 

The counterprotester proceeded to walk down H Street and turned onto 21st Street, followed by at least seven pro-Palestinian demonstrators. 

Three MPD officers stood by the counterprotester’s car that was parked on 21st street and one officer started talking to him as he approached. About a minute later he gave the flag to one of the demonstrators and got into his car. 

The demonstrators returned to U-Yard with the flag and used tape to reattach the two Palestinian flags to the George Washington statue. 

Updated: 5:34 p.m. — Coalitions reiterate guidelines for food donations in Instagram post 

The DMV SJP Coalition and the Student Coalition for Palestine at GWU posted on Instagram this afternoon to remind community members to keep “centering solidarity” with Palestine in all of the encampment’s activities — including donations and food consumed.  

The Palestinian BDS National Committee calls for the boycott of Israeli and international companies that are “complicit” in the violations of Palestinian rights. The post asks that any person who is looking to donate to the encampment run the company through a program to ensure it is BDS-compliant. 

“If we are calling for divestment from the University, we need to personally divest,” the post said.

Updated: 4:01 p.m. — ANC commissioners urge Bowser to support encampment demonstrators

Former and current Advisory Neighborhood Commissioners penned a letter to Mayor Muriel Bowser Monday calling for her to pledge that the Metropolitan Police Department would not take action against protesters in University Yard or clear the encampment by force.

More than 20 commissioners, including Foggy Bottom and West End ANC Commissioner Yannik Omictin, wrote in the letter that they have been “horrified” by the killing of both Israelis and Palestinians during the war in Gaza. The commissioners said the rights of pro-Palestinian students protesting across the country have been “trampled,” including the rights of freedom of assembly and speech. 

“At this time, it is incumbent upon us to ensure that our democratic rights and freedoms are protected,” the letter reads. “This includes the rights of the students from DC-area schools who are gathering in solidarity at the Gaza Solidarity Encampment.”

The commissioners urged Bowser, as the “overseeing authority over MPD,” to commit that MPD would not take action against students to clear the encampment.

“The protesters’ First Amendment rights should be protected and MPD should allow them to disband in a manner and at a time of their own choosing,” they said in the letter.

Updated: 3:47 p.m. — Israeli activist, former IDF soldier Rudy Rochman enters H Street protest

At about 2:45 p.m., Israeli activist and former Israeli Defense Forces soldier Rudy Rochman entered the crowd of roughly 50 protesters chanting on H Street. An organizer screamed through a megaphone alerting protesters that “an IOF soldier” was on campus. 

“So this is our liberated zone right? I don’t think liberation looks like a f*cking IOF soldier on our campus,” an organizer said. 

Rochman served in the IDF from 2011 to 2013, and has spoken to pro-Israel organizations on college campuses across the country. 

About 50 protesters circled around Rochman chanting “Settler, settler go back home, this campus is our freedom zone,” pressing closer with two drums and a large speaker. Some demonstrators recorded on phones as the crowd closed in. Others clapped along or banged on buckets with sticks. 

Throughout the confrontation, Rochman stood at the center of the swarm of protesters. He stood stone-faced, making little move to react or respond to the protesters. 

Two Metropolitan Police Department officers flanked either side of Rochman. About eight officers, including the ones surrounding Rochman, surveilled the scene.

At about 2:56 p.m., Rochman walked from the sidewalk outside U-Yard further onto H Street while protesters followed behind him chanting “You think you’re a f*cking man, you kill kids on stolen land.” 

Protesters remained circled around him while holding a speaker amplifying their chants next to his face and banging on two drums in front of him. 

At about 3:04 p.m., Rochman left campus walking toward 20th and H streets, escorted by five MPD officers, while protesters followed behind him chanting “Rudy, Rudy went back home. This campus is a freedom zone.” 

Chanting resumed for about ten minutes before organizers encouraged protesters to return to their tents to rest. 

“When we say Zionists off our campus, we mean it so f*cking literally,” the organizer said.

Raphael Kellner | Staff Photographer

Updated: 2:59 p.m. — Officials decline to negotiate with protesters, organizers say in press conference

Encampment organizers said during a press conference Saturday afternoon that officials have declined to negotiate on their demands. 

Organizers said they received a formal rejection from officials Friday refusing to meet with organizers and discuss their demands for the University to divest from companies with ties to Israel and support pro-Palestinian student organizers. Organizers also claimed the University suspended an additional student for their participation in the encampment, bringing the total number of students sanctioned by the University to eight. 

Organizers declined to comment on the timing of the eighth student’s suspension for the student’s safety. 

“GW administration then suspended eight students, denying them access to education, housing and meal plans,” the organizer said. “This is unsurprising, that GW-backed occupation forces have decimated Gaza’s educational infrastructure, targeted civilian homes and systematically starved the population.” 

A University spokesperson said officials have communicated with protesters at the U-Yard encampment and elsewhere. The spokesperson declined to comment on whether officials formally rejected organizers’ request for a sit down to discuss their demands for the University on Friday. 

“University officials have been talking with demonstrators on and off University Yard since the beginning of the encampment,” the spokesperson said in an email. 

The spokesperson said the University cannot comment on whether officials suspend an additional student due to “federal regulations.”

Protesters reiterated their demands to officials during the press conference, including divesting from companies supplying arms to Israel, disclosing all endowments and investments, ending academic partnerships tied to Israel, dropping all charges against pro-Palestinian protesters and protecting pro-Palestinian speech on campus.

Organizers said following the alleged rejection from the University to negotiate, protesters plan to continue to occupy U-Yard and call for action from the University until officials meet their demands. 

“Through the fact that we’re still here, the fact that the University has failed to get us out of here, that we’re still here, we’re still fighting and we’re going to be fighting until our demands are met,” an organizer said.

Organizers said “baseless claims of antisemitism” have attempted to divert attention away from their pro-Palestinian demonstrations. They said Provost Chris Bracey allegedly “physically assaulting” a Jewish student earlier this week should serve as an example of harm pro-Palestinian Jewish students have faced.

A video posted to Instagram shows Bracey appearing to grab the phone of a protester early Monday morning.

Organizers said protesters’ decision to re-hoist a giant Palestinian flag on a flagpole outside of Lisner Hall Friday evening was to increase “visibility” of the Palestinian cause. Organizers said the “reactionary display” of the U.S. flag overlooking U-Yard reaffirms the University’s stance on the encampment.

“The stars and stripes are a banner of settler colonial genocide that the administration wears with pride,” they said. 

This post was updated at 9:22 p.m. to include a comment from a University spokesperson.

Raphael Kellner | Staff Photographer

Updated: 12:16 p.m. — Scene from H Street

Children play and blow bubbles at the U-Yard entrance, accompanied by adults standing and chatting. Inside the encampment, quiet music plays over a speaker as protesters slowly exit their tents, some wringing out rainwater from their belongings.

A sign propped up against one of three canopies shielding trays of food and supplies on H Street lists protesters’ “Needs & Requests.” Under “Needs”: masking tape, ice and hot water. Under “Requests”: Gatorade, small potato chips, pasta straws and fruit snacks.

In contrast with the heavy media presence at the encampment on weekdays, there is one broadcast crew on scene on H Street Saturday morning. 

Updated: 11:55 a.m. — Day 10 encampment schedule

The GWU Student Coalition for Palestine posted today’s schedule for encampment programming in an Instagram story Saturday morning. 

  • At 11 a.m., study time.
  • At 1 p.m., Dhuhr prayer and lunch.
  • At 1:30 p.m., a solidarity statement from UNITE HERE Local 23, a division of a labor union that represents workers across Canada and the U.S. 
  • At 2 p.m., a press conference. 
  • At 3:30 p.m., a collective study. 
  • At 5 p.m., Asr prayer. 
  • At 5:30 p.m., a community meeting.
  • At 6:30 p.m., Tatreez Circle, a form of Palestinian embroidery.  
  • At 8:05 p.m., Maghrib prayer and Khatira.
  • At 8:30 p.m., a community open mic. 
  • At 9:45 p.m., Isha prayer.

Updated: 11:31 a.m. — Billboard truck on 21st Street

An electronic billboard truck was seen driving down 21st Street at about 11:05 a.m., less than a block from the pro-Palestinian encampment in U-Yard. The billboard attached to the back of the truck displayed an outline of a blue star, circled by the message “Jewish students you are not alone.”

The billboards on the sides of the vehicle screened footage of Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack above the message “Scarring proof of Hamas brutality revealed,” as well as clips of news reports from various points in time about violence perpetrated by Hamas in Israel. The billboard also screened a clip of Eylon Levy, a former Israeli government spokesperson, making an address about Oct. 7.

A GW-issued vehicle was seen tailing the truck, which appears to be making a loop through campus. The vehicle briefly parked in front of Lisner Auditorium before driving away.

Raphael Kellner | Staff Photographer

Updated: 7:19 a.m. — Commencement update

Officials affirmed they have no plans to cancel commencement, according to the “Daily Demonstration Update.”

MSNBC host and former White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki will deliver the keynote speech at the Class of 2024’s Commencement ceremony, officials announced Wednesday. Master’s student Yahya Aliyu, who studies bioengineering and biomedical engineering, will be the student speaker for the ceremony. 

“The university remains committed to doing everything possible to ensure our graduating students and their families and friends have the commencement experience they expect and deserve,” the release states.

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