Tag Archive for: George Washington University (GWU)

D.C. Finally Clears Pro-Hamas Encampment in President’s Backyard

General George Washington nearly lost the Revolutionary War because local political leaders refused to supply him with needed reinforcements. This past week, his namesake’s university nearly lost the Battle of Gaza Plaza for the same reason. Pro-Hamas demonstrators erected an encampment four blocks from the White House complex at George Washington University (GWU), where it remained for two weeks until Wednesday morning.

On Thursday, April 25, activists descended on GWU’s University Yard (U-Yard) to erect a “Gaza Solidarity Encampment” or “Popular University for Gaza,” where stands a statue of George Washington.

“That encampment of these pro-Hamas anti-Semites was using the George Washington Statue as ground zero,” Senator Steve Daines (R-Mont.), who witnessed the encampment firsthand on Tuesday, said on “Washington Watch.” “The statue of George Washington [was] covered in stickers that say, ‘Free Palestine. … A Palestinian flag replac[ed] the American flag” in Washington’s hand. “His head was covered in a keffiyeh. … A large whiteboard at the base of that statue … laid out the encampment rules.”

Of course, the American flag stands for freedom, limited government, and the rule of law, while the terrorist-controlled, autonomous regions of Palestine stand for religious extremism and anti-Semitism. Muslim Arabs enjoy freedom and rights in Israel, while the only Jews left alive in Gaza are Hamas’s hostages.

The activists further demonstrated their historical illiteracy by vandalizing the Washington statue’s base with “Genocidal Warmonger University” (for GWU) in red spray paint. Washington only ever fought defensive wars, usually against people of the same skin color — just like the modern nation of Israel.

In a refreshing contrast to the spinelessness of university administrators elsewhere, the GWU administration showed little tolerance for this unlawful form of activism. On April 25, they ordered the activists to disperse by 7 p.m. When the protestors refused to do so, the administration asked the D.C. Metro Police Department (MPD) to clear the encampment early Friday morning.

Then top city officials ordered MPD to stand down. MPD had assembled to clear then encampment at 3 a.m. on Friday when the police chief’s and mayor’s offices countermanded the operation. According to anonymous insiders contacted by The Washington Post, city leaders were “worried about the optics of moving against a small number of peaceful protesters.”

Without law enforcement reinforcements, GWU president Ellen Granberg did what she could with her own authority and suspended seven students who organized the protest.

Foresight could have predicted what hindsight proved — that GWU was right to want the protest shut down as soon as possible. The activist encampment — which included non-students from the beginning — quickly grew rowdier. On Day Two (April 26), it spilled out of U-Yard and took over the adjacent H Street NW. On Day Four (April 28), hundreds of activists stormed a police barricade and tore it down. On Day Eight, the protestors lowered the university flag and raised the Palestinian flag in its place.

While at the campus, Daines spoke with “a group of Jewish students who told me they were afraid to walk on campus. They’re scared just being in classes.”

Granberg skewered the MPD excuses days later:

“When protesters overrun barriers established to protect the community, vandalize a university statue and flag, surround and intimidate GW students with anti-Semitic images and hateful rhetoric, chase people out of a public yard based on their perceived beliefs, and ignore, degrade, and push GW Police Officers and university maintenance staff, the protest ceases to be peaceful or productive. All of these things have happened at GW in the last five days.”

Then Congress got involved. After seven days of tepid law enforcement, the House Oversight Committee summoned D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser (D) and MPD commissioner Pamela Smith to explain themselves at a hearing scheduled for 1 p.m. on Wednesday.

Shortly after 3 a.m. on Wednesday morning, MPD surrounded U-Yard, delivered three more warnings for activists to leave, and then moved in. More than a dozen activists refused to leave and were arrested. About a block away, a group of protestors rushed a barricade of police bikes, pushing against it and attempting to break through. The police responded to this physical aggression on the part of activists by deploying tear gas. All told, MPD arrested 33 activists.

After MPD cleared the encampment Wednesday morning, the hearing scheduled for that afternoon was canceled, Chairman James Comer (R-Ky.) announced. “It was unfortunate the situation at GW forced the Oversight Committee to act; however it was apparent that the DC police force was not going to do their job,” he said. “I am pleased that the potential Oversight hearing led to swift action by Mayor Bowser and MPD Chief Smith.”

House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) made a similar argument. “It should not require threatening to haul D.C.’s mayor before Congress to keep Jewish students at George Washington University safe.”

Obviously, city officials were never going to agree with this embarrassing interpretation of events. Bowser and Smith claimed they decided to clear the encampment because “the protest was becoming more volatile and less stable,” citing evidence that protestors were “casing” university buildings for a break-in and had “gathered improvised weapons” to accomplish a more resilient occupation.

This interpretation of events relies on the audience’s selective memory loss. The encampment was never legal; GWU suspended organizers for violating the student code of conduct in no less than nine different ways. As soon as the activists refused the first order to leave, they could rightfully be arrested for trespassing. Activists then escalated their lawbreaking on numerous occasions, including unlawfully occupying a city street, tearing down a police barricade, and intimidating Jewish students.

If these escalations did not precipitate a police response, it’s difficult to see what did trigger city officials to green-light clearing out the encampment, besides congressional action. The pro-Hamas activists were undoubtedly planning further escalations, as they have done elsewhere, but they hadn’t actually carried out their plans. If, as reported, city officials fretted over the “optics” of arresting “peaceful” protestors, nothing had happened that would change their calculus.

The only significant event that corresponds to the Wednesday morning clear-out is the Oversight Committee hearing scheduled for that afternoon. This changed the calculus for city officials by introducing a completely different set of “optics.” D.C.’s far-left electorate and media are far more skeptical of legitimate uses of police powers than ordinary Americans and their congressional representatives are.

The racially-tinged lenses of Marxism distort the circumstances. In reality, police are just doing their jobs to enforce laws passed by the popularly elected representatives of the people, while a small but stubborn group of activists seeks to defy those laws in increasingly disruptive ways. But Marxism makes the aggressive activists illegally camping on a university lawn and city street seem like courageous heroes fighting for revolutionary, generational change. Marxism also makes law enforcement officers who necessarily have to wear riot gear look like brutal agents of a reactionary, oppressive state. Actions that seem sensible within the parameters of this distorted reality look just as silly in real life as someone wearing a VR headset.

Many members of Congress do not wear the reality-defying glasses of Marxism. So city officials, whose job it is to govern in the real world, not an imaginary one, were embarrassed to defend their silly indulgence of Marxist fantasies from the skeptical questioning of the Oversight Committee’s skilled interrogators. Rather than face this eye-opening experience, they chose instead to order the encampment cleared.

Further indicating that the Wednesday morning clear-out was a policy change, rather than a consistent response to changing circumstances, is the criticism it drew from those still viewing the world through the lens of Marxism. “Less than 10 hours ago, I was pepper sprayed and assaulted by police,” who “destroyed a beautiful community space that was all about love,” complained one Palestinian GWU student. He insisted they were punished “because we decided to pitch some tents, hold community activities and learn from each other. We built something incredible. We built something game-changing.”

No, the United States of America is something incredible. The U.S. Constitution — which replaced the unworkable articles that so hampered General Washington — was game-changing. American civil society is virtuous not because it is “all about love” but because it creates an even playing field with fair and just rules — unlike this supposedly loving community united by hatred of Jews. Those who built this country risked their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor; those who want to tear it down insist they should risk nothing. Fortunately, we live in the real world, not Marxism’s optical illusion.


Joshua Arnold

Joshua Arnold is a senior writer at The Washington Stand.

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