Updated Apr 25, 2024 - News

D.C. college students gather to protest the war in Gaza

A tent with a sign reading "No justice, no peace."

George Washington University students camp out on campus to demand that their university divest from Israel and call for a ceasefire in Gaza. Photo: Mostafa Bassim/Anadolu via Getty Images

D.C. college students protesting the war in Gaza are demanding action from their institutions amid a larger reckoning on campuses nationwide.

The big picture: U.S. colleges have become flashpoints for pro-Palestinian protests since the Israel-Hamas war began last October, write Axios' Sareen Habeshian, Rebecca Falconer, and Jacob Knutson.

Area demonstrations follow the arrests of protesters at schools like Columbia University, the University of Texas in Austin, Emerson College, and the University of Southern California since last week.

Driving the news: Students and faculty from several DMV universities established an encampment at George Washington University (GW) on Thursday to protest the war in Gaza.

State of play: Local student protesters are demanding a Gaza ceasefire and that their schools divest from Israel-connected companies.

  • The GW encampment was planned by a collection of Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) groups from GW, Georgetown, American, Howard University, George Mason University, University of Maryland, University of Maryland-Baltimore County, and Gallaudet.

D.C. police gathered near GW Thursday afternoon to relocate the encampment per university instructions after protesters ignored requests from campus police to move, says GW president Ellen Granberg in a statement.

  • "Occupying campus grounds, establishing outdoor encampments, and blocking access to buildings create safety concerns and can disrupt learning and study," said Granberg in the statement.

Protestors were told they had until 7pm Thursday, after which the encampment must be cleared, per GW's student newspaper, The Hatchet.

  • But demonstrations carried on into the late evening, and it does not appear that police have tried to clear the encampment yet.

Context: GW has seen steady protests since last fall when SJP projected pro-Palestinian messages on a school library, after which the group was suspended.

  • GW students have also led vigils in support of Israel and those taken hostage by Hamas. GW Hillel posted a statement on Instagram on Thursday saying it was "closely monitoring the protests" and that they were "a part of a growing and deeply troubling pattern that is emerging at campuses across the country."

Meanwhile, the ACLU of DC filed a lawsuit on behalf of Jackson-Reed High School's Arab Student Union on Wednesday, alleging that the school's administration violated the club's First Amendment rights.

What's ahead: The groundswell of activism in the nation's capital is colliding with a weekend of festivities surrounding Saturday's White House Correspondents' Dinner.

  • Organizers expect several hundred people to rally in Kalorama Park, two blocks from the Washington Hilton, where President Biden and "Saturday Night Live" comedian Colin Jost will be attending the dinner, NBC News reports.
  • A group of Palestinian journalists have urged reporters to "publicly boycott" the dinner "as an act of solidarity."

This is a developing story. Check back for updates.

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