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The GW Hatchet

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

Pro-Palestinian students, graduates protest outside of Commencement

Students%2C+graduates+and+demonstrators+gathered+in+front+of+the+National+Museum+of+African+American+History+and+Culture+to+protest+GWs+2024+Commencement.
Sage Russell | Senior Photo Editor
Students, graduates and demonstrators gathered in front of the National Museum of African American History and Culture to protest GW’s 2024 Commencement.

About 200 pro-Palestinian demonstrators convened outside of Commencement on the National Mall on Sunday morning to protest the war in Gaza and demand GW divests from companies supplying arms to Israel.

Students, some of whom were not graduates, gathered on the corner of Constitution Avenue and 15th Street next to the National History of African American History and Culture at about 10:15 a.m. and were joined by at least 100 graduates who walked out of the ceremony during University President Ellen Granberg’s speech at about 11:15 a.m. The graduates held signs that read “Your tuition funds genocide” and “Divest now,” and were joined by demonstrators from other schools like American and Georgetown universities.

Just feet away from the ongoing Commencement ceremony, demonstrators chanted at the University and administrators for more than two hours, including statements like, “GW, you’re painted red, 5,000 students dead,” “No commencement graduation as usual, in the face of injustice we won’t be neutral,” and “Students students made us proud, shut graduations down.”

Sunday’s protest follows weeks of pro-Palestinian demonstrations on GW’s campus demanding GW divests from companies supplying arms to the Israeli military, including a 13-day encampment in University Yard which led to the arrest of 33 demonstrators, six of whom were GW students.

Israel’s military’s offensive in Gaza continued Sunday as Israeli officials conducted an airstrike that killed 27 people in central Gaza, most of whom where women and children. As of Sunday, more than 35,000 Palestinians have been killed by the Israeli military since Oct. 7.

Protesters also heard from more than half a dozen speakers while University officials, graduates and honored guests spoke at Commencement. Demonstrators shared stories about their family members who live in Gaza, including one demonstrator who said they lost their mother and father and have cousins in Gaza who have been displaced.

The demonstrator said the encampment at GW showed their cousins that people were advocating for them. The demonstrator said they didn’t know what “B.S.” administrators were telling graduates inside the ceremony about their role as future changemakers but said the title was better suited to demonstrators who walked out of Commencement and protested against GW’s ties to Israel amid in the war in Gaza.

“You guys will make the change, you guys are the ones that give my cousins in Gaza hope,” the speaker said. “You are the ones that give them hope that their mother and their father’s legacy will continue to live.”

Metropolitan Police Department officers surveilled the area but did not engage with the demonstrators. A passerby flipped off protesters, and others took photos in front of the protest to mock demonstrators.

Graduates who stayed at the ceremony and their families didn’t engage with demonstrators as they entered and exited the mall, except for a few parents who told protesters it was not the time or the place to protest because they wanted to be able to see their child graduate without disruption.

“Some of the parents in there want to say this isn’t the time or the place for a protest, and you know what I say to that?” a demonstrator asked the crowd. “F*ck your graduation.”

A representative from the Student Coalition for Palestine at GWU said it is morally imperative to take a “firm stance” against the “complicity” of universities in Israel’s bombardment of Gaza. They said there will be no graduations in Gaza this year because the Israeli military has destroyed or damaged 12 of Gaza’s higher education institutions and countless Palestinian students will never get the chance to walk across the stage.

“There can be no graduation as usual here while George Washington University deprives Gaza of theirs,” the representative said.

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About the Contributor
Hannah Marr, News Editor
Hannah Marr, a sophomore double majoring in journalism and mass communication and history from New York, New York, leads the Administration and Finance beat as one of The Hatchet's 2024-25 news editors. She was previously the assistant news editor for the Student Government beat.
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