Apr 30, 2024 - News

Mapped: Pro-Palestinian campus protests in the DMV

College campuses with reported encampments or sit-ins related to the war in Gaza
Data: Axios research. Note: Universities with joint encampments reported separately. Locations approximated for clarity; Map: Kavya Beheraj, Tory Lysik, and Will Chase/Axios

Hundreds of people have been arrested at pro-Palestinian protests on at least 15 college campuses across the U.S. in just over a week, including in Virginia.

Why it matters: University administrations have cracked down on student demonstrators in unprecedented ways as protests grow in size and intensity, with the majority of arrests happening at encampments and sit-ins.

The big picture: Students set up an encampment at Columbia on April 17 after the university's president, Minouche Shafik, testified before Congress about antisemitism on campus. Shafik called on the New York Police Department to disband the encampment.

  • Since then, solidarity encampments and sit-ins have popped up at colleges nationwide. Students are demanding that their universities divest from businesses that have financial ties to Israel and those that are supporting the war in Gaza.

Zoom in: An encampment started at George Washington University last Thursday. It includes student groups from other universities including Georgetown, American, Howard, Gallaudet, and beyond.

  • D.C. police are monitoring the protest but declined to clear out the encampment — despite pleas from GW officials.
  • Several GW students have been suspended. On Sunday night, protesters broke down barriers around the encampment and sparred with campus police.
  • GW's spring semester just ended, but officials say the campus will remain open. Demonstrators have vowed to stay until their demands are met.

Zoom out: Student protests in the wider region have resulted in arrests. A dozen demonstrators were detained including nine students at Mary Washington in Fredericksburg over the weekend.

  • Protesters were also arrested Monday at Virginia Tech University.

The encampments and sit-ins have been largely peaceful, with little to no conflict until the point of police intervention.

  • Most arrests have been on the grounds of trespassing. Civil rights organizations like the ACLU of Georgia have denounced them as "unconstitutional crackdowns on speech and protest."
  • Universities have the right to intervene "when expressive activities get out of hand and turn violent," Amy Sanders, an attorney and journalist, told the Texas Observer, "or when people begin engaging in speech that is not protected by the First Amendment."

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

What we're watching: GWU's encampment, which has grown to around 200 people.

Go deeper: In photos: Hundreds arrested as pro-Palestinian college protests intensify

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