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ANC questions MPD on GW encampment clearing, off-campus shooting

File Photo: Rory Quealy | Staff Photographer
Members of the Foggy Bottom and West End Advisory Neighborhood Commission speak during its monthly meeting.

Members of a local governing body questioned local police officers on the decision to clear the pro-Palestinian encampment in University Yard and a shooting at a Foggy Bottom apartment building on the edge of GW’s campus during their meeting Tuesday. 

Members of the Foggy Bottom and West End Advisory Neighborhood Commission members asked two Metropolitan Police Department officers to explain why they decided to clear GW’s encampment at about 4 a.m. on May 8. Commissioners also asked the officers for more details on an incident in late May when a police officer shot an individual at the Columbia Plaza Apartments while responding to a mental health crisis. 

Ed Comer, the 2A04 commissioner, condemned District officials’ “lack of transparency” on the potential that the D.C. Department of Human Services will delay of the opening of The Aston — a former GW dorm that District officials are converting into a homeless shelter — until October. Chair and 2A03 Commissioner Trupti Patel said the ANC will announce its new executive director, who’s in the process of onboarding, at the July meeting.

Here are some of the meeting’s highlights:

Commissioners question local police on GW encampment clearing, police shooting at Columbia Plaza Apartments

MPD Captain Sharde Harris said MPD officials determined the pro-Palestinian encampment in U-Yard grew unsafe for protesters and GW Police Department officers, which led them to clear the demonstration. Lieutenant Michael Howden said while the demonstration began with protesters “peacefully expressing their opinions,” those circumstances may have changed because of “outside agitators.” 

MPD officers swept the nearly two-week-long pro-Palestinian encampment at about 4 a.m. on May 8, arresting more than 30 protesters and employing pepper spray. 

2A01 Commissioner Yannik Omictin asked Howden and Harris what threat required MPD to clear the encampment “early in the morning when folks were asleep.” Howden said the decision took place at a “higher level” than he and Harris are privy to but said hard decisions are made “when things become dangerous.”

2A07 Commissioner Dasia Bandy responded by asking the two officers on how MPD defined “dangerous” when deciding to clear the encampment. Howden deferred Bandy to MPD’s policies.

Harris said the officer shooting at the Columbia Plaza Apartments is still under internal MPD investigation. She said the incident escalated when the individual learned officers were bringing them to the hospital, which the Department of Behavioral Health requires the first responders to do, prompting the individual to stab an officer in the neck. Howden said the individual will receive mental health services free of charge.

Commissioner criticizes District officials’ ‘lack of transparency’ on delayed opening of Aston unhoused shelter 

Comer said he believes District officials were not authorized to disclose that the opening of The Aston will likely be pushed back until October. Jean-Michel Giraud — the president and chief executive officer of Friendship Place, the District-based housing provider for people experiencing homelessness that will supervise The Aston — said officials may delay the opening at the Community Advisory Team meeting last week. 

Comer said that while Giraud announced the delay, it seems like District officials knew of the setback but didn’t reveal it because they weren’t allowed to, not because they didn’t want to. 

“I’m just wanting to express my incredible disappointment at the lack of transparency and honesty,” Comer said. “We’re saying if things are going to take longer, even if they don’t know for sure, I think they have an obligation to let everybody know it may be that it’s something unavoidable.”

Comer said if District leaders continue to withhold information from community members, the ANC “may have to act more aggressively to express our concerns about that.”

Courtney Cooperman, a CAT member who updates the ANC on CAT meetings, said she shared Comer’s concern that the delay was only mentioned at the end of the CAT meeting and said she intends to press officials on the delay during the CAT’s next meeting.

ANC chair announces restored funding for School Without Walls, Aston roof

ANC Chair Trupti Patel said the D.C. Council restored funding to retain teaching positions at the School Without Walls High School, following months of advocacy by students and community members against the cuts. She said the Council also allocated $300,000 for necessary roof repairs at The Aston. 

The funding followed an April ANC resolution urging the Council to fill the proposed $225,000 funding gap. In April, teachers and students at SWW said the gap would lead to the termination of the Chinese and Theater teachers.

At the final budget meeting on June 12, Ward 2 City Councilmember Brooke Pinto introduced an amendment to restore funding for the two teaching positions. The Council voted 9 to 4 to transfer $111,000 from the District’s reserves to close the fiscal gap at the June 12 meeting. Funding for SWW came from the District’s enrollment reserves, which are funds set aside to meet the needs of schools that exceed enrollment expectations, according to Pinto’s amendment.

ANC requests extended bus line, supports Better Bus Network

All five commissioners at Tuesday’s meeting unanimously approved a resolution endorsing the proposed Better Bus Network, the result of an initiative spearheaded by the Washington Metropolitan Area Transportation Authority to better align the region’s bus routes with the people they serve. The resolution, authored by Omictin, expresses support for the project to realign the current bus network to better serve lower-income, majority-Black neighborhoods in D.C. that are transit deserts or populations that tend to be more reliant on public transportation but lack access to it. 

The resolution contains a request that WMATA extend the proposed D72, one of the four routes intended to replace the 42 and 43 bus routes, directly to Foggy Bottom. The D72 route, the resolution read, would force some residents to walk for as long as 30 minutes to access the service. 

The 42 and 43 routes currently begin at the Kennedy Center and continue through Foggy Bottom to Mt. Pleasant. According to data provided by the WMATA Office of Planning, the routes saw a combined 37,922 UPass riders in 2023, making it the second highest-ridership route pair by UPass usage in the District and the most popular in Foggy Bottom. 

District transportation department updates ANC on bus lane changes on H, I streets

A representative from the DC Department of Transportation shared initial plans to reconfigure District bus lanes. DDOT installed the lanes as a pilot project to improve the flow of traffic in June of 2019 and District officials announced the bus lanes’ permanence after four months. 

Between Pennsylvania Ave and 18th Street, DDOT will add an offset bus lane adjacent to the existing bus lane to create a dedicated space for buses, reducing delays caused by other vehicles stopping at the curb. Between 17th and 18th streets, DDOT will change the existing curbside bus lane to an offset bus lane and propose removing the nearby bus stop at H and 17th streets to increase spacing between bus stops. 

DDOT will also convert curbside bus lanes between 17th Street and Connecticut Ave into an offset bus lane. 

Commissioner Omictin said he welcomes the changes and recounted his frequent frustration with tour buses frequently parking in the bus lane between Pennsylvania and Connecticut Avenues. 

“This is a really sensible change,” he said.

The next ANC meeting will be Wednesday July 17 at 7 p.m.

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About the Contributor
Rory Quealy, News Editor
Rory Quealy is a sophomore majoring in journalism and mass communications from La Grange, Illinois. She leads the Metro beat as one of The Hatchet's 2024-25 news editors. She was previously the assistant news editor for the Health and Research beat and a research assistant.
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