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By Hannah Marr, News Editor • June 21, 2024

Live coverage: GWPD cuts flagpole rope on encampment’s 12th day

Lexi Critchett | Assistant Photo Editor
A GW Police Department officer cuts the rope to the Lisner Hall flagpole after protesters attempt to re-hoist a large Palestinian flag.

Protesters enter the 12th day of the encampment with the final exam period in full swing and ire over University President Ellen Granberg’s reported refusal to meet with organizers. 

Granberg said in a statement Sunday that the demonstration has not been “peaceful or productive” due to incidents like the breach of the barricade that enclosed U-Yard and called on D.C. officials to support University leaders in handling the encampment. Officials said in a release Sunday that they have met with demonstrators since the encampment began on April 25, but protesters said Sunday that officials have “not yet been responsive” to their demands.

The DMV Student Coalition for Justice in Palestine posted a press release Sunday denouncing official’s refusal to meet with organizers, the University’s use of “physical and psychological tactics of repression,” like installing barricades around the encampment that demonstrators have since overrun, the alleged suspension of eight students and the University’s “reactionary” display of the American flag over Lisner Hall. 

Monday is the second day in the final exam period, which ends Friday evening. Protesters have participated in scheduled “collective study” sessions for the past three days. 

Follow along for live updates below:

Kaiden J. Yu | Assistant Photo Editor

Updated 2:17 a.m. — 12th day comes to a quiet close 

U-Yard remains quiet as protesters settle in for the night ahead. Organizers walked through the encampment around 1 a.m., appearing to assess unoccupied tents and collect waste into a trash bag. 

Updated: 8:20 p.m. — Jewish Voice for Peace holds teach-in

Members of GW Jewish Voice for Peace held a teach-in at about 6:20 p.m. in the center of U-Yard about Jewish solidarity with Palestinians.

More than 80 demonstrators sat in chairs and on the ground in a circle for the discussion. A JVP organizer began the teach-in by reading a statement JVP released Wednesday professing support for the U-Yard encampment and criticizing Zionists who say they feel unsafe because of the encampment’s presence on campus.

“For Zionists to suggest that their safety is violated by deliberately misconstrued chants and signs, which Zionists then theorize as harmful to them personally is a vile dismissal of the active genocide of Palestinians and the diverse coalition of Palestinians, Arabs, Muslims, Jews and so many others who are forced to be confonting our institution’s complicity in that genocide,” the organizer read. 

The organizer said Yom HaShoah, or Holocaust Remembrance Day today, is an Israeli holiday. The Israeli parliament established Yom HaShoah in 1951, while International Holocaust Remembrance Day is celebrated on Jan. 27. 

A member of the JVP-D.C. Metro said she recalled attending a Hillel-hosted Seder at Northeastern University and chose not to return to the university’s Hillel events because they discussed wanting to return to Israel. 

“It’s colonial,” they said. “Colonialism will never support us, not in our Judaism and not in our humanity.”

They said the protesters’ struggle over hoisting the Palestinian flag demonstrates resistance. Demonstrators attempted to hoist a Palestinian flag Monday morning but GWPD officers cut the rope on the flagpole before demonstrators could attach the flag.

“We have to show that we’re here,” they said. “We have to show that we are willing to do whatever we can.”

Kaiden J. Yu | Assistant Photo Editor

Updated: 4:52 p.m. — Staff checks in on encampment

A person affiliated with the University spoke with a group of organizers Monday afternoon about encampment sanitation. 

The person said they were checking in with organizers on the measures they were taking to ensure the health and safety of the encampment. They said they see no concerns with the demonstrators’ health and safety as of today.

They said GW Environmental Health and Safety staff members have been present at the encampment since its start on April 25.

Updated: 4:26 p.m. — Demonstrators participate in villages of Palestine activity

At 2:40 p.m., two organizers presented a history of Palestinian cities and villages in Gaza and the West Bank to about 25 protesters in the center of U-Yard.

“The occupation is not the only thing that makes up Palestine, and we need to remember the histories and cultures that existed there prior to occupation,” one organizer said. 

The two organizers shared brief summaries of the history of about 10 different areas and historical sites of Palestine, some of which are still present and some that no longer exist.

One of the cities demonstrators presented about was Haifa, which they said was a cultural hub of Palestine for folklore, music, literature and theater. Haifa is now part of Israel after a battle for the city from 1948 to 1949, which caused tens of thousands of Arabs living in Haifa to flee, and is considered the main port of the country.

Demonstrators also presented about Rafah, a city on the southern edge of the Gaza Strip that is a trade hub and point of entry to the Gaza Strip through its border with Egypt. Israel recently ordered an evacuation of Palestinians from Rafah, indicating a looming invasion of the region.

After the presentation, the demonstrators passed out index cards with the names of different Palestinian villages on them for protestors to tape onto their tents. The demonstrators ended the programming by saying they encourage protestors to do individual research on the villages.

Kaiden J. Yu | Assistant Photo Editor

Updated: 3:37 p.m. — Organizers hold press conference, denounce Granberg’s Sunday letter

Encampment organizers called Granberg’s letter “deeply misleading” at a press conference Monday at 2 p.m.

Organizers reiterated their allegation that Granberg has refused to meet with their group, despite her letter Sunday stating that GW officials have held “regular and sustained dialogues” with GW students involved with the encampment. Organizers said they have been willing to negotiate with Granberg since “day one” of the encampment. 

“This statement is an implicit threat to employ escalated state force against the students, staff, faculty and D.C. community members who have been steadfast in our solidarity with the Palestinian people,” an organizer said. 

Granberg alleged in the statement that demonstrators have vandalized the statue of George Washington and the flag in U-Yard and surrounded and intimidated students with “antisemitic images and hateful rhetoric.” An organizer said Granberg’s allegations toward protesters are meant as a “distraction” from Gaza.

“They are meant to take the focus away, to take all eyes off of Gaza, but all eyes should be remaining on Gaza,” the organizer said. 

Demonstrators removed a GW flag Thursday and hoisted a Palestinian flag in its place. They have painted slogans like “Genocidal Warmonger University” and placed stickers with phrases like “Free Palestine” and “None of us are free until all of us are free” on the statue. 

An organizer said the encampment is a collective effort among students from D.C. area universities, with the support of faculty, alumni, parents, small business owners, religious leaders and doctors in the region. Another organizer said they will remain in the encampment until their demands are met. 

Organizers declined to state the number of GW students in the encampment, citing concerns over demonstrators’ safety. Organizers also declined to comment on the number of protesters in the encampment at a press conference Sunday.

“Anyone is welcome to walk through, anyone is welcome to partake in the community,” the organizer said. “And that’s obviously not encampment rules, that’s the University rules.”

Officials sent a GW alert on April 26, after barricades were erected around U-Yard, announcing that the area was closed with restricted access and no re-entry. Since students removed the barricades on April 28, non-GW affiliated individuals have moved freely through the encampment. 

Organizers stated that eight students have been placed under interim suspension and the consequences of the suspensions are still being determined.

Lexi Critchett | Assistant Photo Editor

Updated: 11:49 a.m. — GWPD officer pulls out pocket knife, cuts rope on flagpole as students attempt to hang Palestinian flag

At 11:27 a.m., about 30 demonstrators began clapping as they moved from the center of University Yard towards the steps of Lisner Hall. 

Demonstrators started encircling the right flagpole outside of Lisner Hall as two GW Police Department officers approached. One officer stood at the base of the flagpole but stepped aside as the protesters climbed the steps and grabbed the flagpole. 

Two more GWPD officers entered the yard from the western entrance, bringing the total officer count to four GWPD and one MPD officer. 

“I don’t want to hurt anyone,” the officer standing under the flagpole said as he tried to coax students down from the steps of Lisner Hall.

“You’’ll get f*cking arrested, I’ll tell you that right now,” another officer standing to the side of the flagpole said as one demonstrator tried to block him from reaching the flagpole. 

“Can I cut the rope,” the officer standing next to the flagpole asked the officers behind him. He was flanked by a group of about 15 demonstrators who placed their hands on the flagpole. 

At 11:29 a.m. the officer pulled out a pocketknife and cut the rope on the flagpole before the demonstrators were able to attach the Palestinian flag. 

“Move your hand now!,” the officer who cut the rope said. “Guys there’s an open knife, I suggest you move your hands.” 

“Oink oink, piggy piggy, we the students run this city,” the demonstrators chanted as they faced the police standing to the side of Lisner Hall by the western entrance to the yard. 

The demonstrators then grabbed each end of the Palestinian flag and held it out by the southern side of the yard.

“The more you try to silence us the louder we will be” the demonstrators chanted as they held the flag. 

Demonstrators then pinned the flag to the side of the Lisner Hall steps. The organizers led chants like “You pull knives on students too” and “who do you protect, who do you serve.”

Updated: 11:17 a.m. — Day 12 encampment programming 

Organizers wrote out today’s programming on a white board near the center of the U-Yard encampment this morning. The Student Coalition for Palestine at GWU also published the schedule in an Instagram post

  • At 11 a.m., a community meeting 
  • At 12 p.m., collective study 
  • At 1:15 p.m., Dhuhr prayer and lunch 
  • At 2 p.m., a press conference 
  • At 2:30 p.m., villages of Palestine activity 
  • At 4 p.m., villages of Palestine discussion 
  • At 5:30 p.m., Asr prayer 
  • At 6 p.m., JVP teach-in 
  • At 8:05 p.m., Maghrib prayer and Khatira 
  • At 9:45 p.m., Isha prayer 
  • 10 p.m., film screening: Battle of Algiers (1996) 

Updated: 10:28 a.m. — Protesters rise slowly 

Protesters are off to a slower start this morning, with only a few individuals meandering around the encampment.

The encampment was drenched in rain for the last three days, forcing protesters to don ponchos and rain jackets. Last night most protesters retired to their tents shortly after nightfall, opting out of any late-night programming. 

As the encampment reaches its 12th day, rain is not forecasted until roughly 9 p.m. tonight. Temperatures are expected to stay in the low 70s and cloudy for the majority of the day. 

The giant American flag that officials hung over Lisner Hall is limp and heavy with the weight of water. 

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