Updated May 8, 2024 - News

Republicans scrap hearing with D.C. mayor after police clear GW encampment

Law enforcement officers walk past a row of empty tents.

Law enforcement officers walk through GW's now empty pro-Palestinian encampment. Photo: Kent Nishimura/Getty Images

A congressional hearing on D.C.'s prior decision not to take action regarding George Washington University's pro-Palestinian encampment was canceled after D.C. police cleared the area and arrested more than 30 people early Wednesday.

The big picture: This comes as 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.

  • More than 2,900 people have been arrested at pro-Palestinian protests on college campuses across the country in recent weeks.

Driving the news: D.C. police began clearing the encampment early Wednesday, during which demonstrators clashed with officers at least once, and police used pepper spray on protesters.

  • Thirty-three people were arrested, including for unlawful entry and assault on a police officer, police chief Pamela A. Smith said at a Wednesday morning press conference with Mayor Muriel Bowser. It's currently unclear how many of those arrested are GW students.

This comes after protesters marched to GW president Ellen Granberg's home Tuesday evening.

What they're saying: Smith described an "escalation in the volatility of the protests" over the past few days. Police said protesters had gathered "improvised weapons" and that individuals were seen "casing" university buildings.

The other side: Students, faculty, and local activists have denounced the arrests, with protesters calling the police response a "shameful display of violence and repression against students."

  • A group of parents sent a letter to GW's Board of Trustees demanding that Granberg and provost Christopher Alan Bracey be fired.
  • D.C. Council members Janeese Lewis George and Robert White also condemned the encampment clearing.

State of play: The arrests and cleared encampment happened hours before Bowser and Smith were supposed to testify before the Republican-led House Committee on Oversight and Accountability about why they'd previously denied GW's requests to clear the encampment.

  • "It should not require threatening to haul D.C.'s mayor before Congress to keep Jewish students at George Washington University safe," House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) said in a statement.

The GW encampment was set up roughly two weeks ago, and protests had been largely peaceful.

  • Previously, the biggest escalations between protesters and authorities came after demonstrators toppled police barricades and hung a Palestinian flag on a campus flagpole.
  • Members of the congressional committee visited the encampment last week and held a press conference calling for its clearing.

The encampment included student groups from other universities like Georgetown, American, Howard University, George Mason University, University of Maryland, University of Maryland-Baltimore County, and Gallaudet.

What's ahead: GW will maintain heightened security on campus, and any demonstrations will need to be coordinated through the Division for Student Affairs, the university said in a statement.

This is a developing story. Check back for details.

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