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House hearing on George Washington University protest canceled after police clear out encampment and arrest over 30


The Washington, D.C. Metropolitan Police Department cleared a pro-Palestinian encampment on the George Washington University campus early Wednesday and arrested 30 protesters and three others in a separate altercation, the police chief said. Metropolitan Police, Pamela A. Smith.

The action took place hours before Washington Mayor Muriel Bowser and Smith were scheduled to testify in Congress for the House Oversight Committee on the response to the encampment. Yet after police cleared the encampment, House Oversight Chairman James Comer, a Kentucky Republican, announced that the hearing had been canceled and took credit for instigating the ‘action.

“I am pleased that the potential oversight hearing led to swift action by Mayor Bowser and MPD Chief Smith. We will continue to hold DC officials accountable to keep our nation’s capital safe for everyone,” Comer said in a statement.

GW is one of several universities across the country where pro-Palestinian protesters have set up unauthorized camps and demonstrated against Israel’s war in Gaza and U.S. support for the country. Police have arrested more than 2,400 people on American campuses since mid-April, amid polarized debates over the right to demonstrate, the limits of freedom of expression and accusations of anti-Semitism.

GW’s encampment was set up about two weeks ago in University Courtyard, a grassy square on campus surrounded by a dining hall and academic buildings. A partner tent community fanned out on the nearby public road, and the two protests merged after demonstrators, in an act of defiance, removed metal barriers erected around the initial encampment.

The encampment drew criticism from GW President Ellen Granberg, who said it was “unsanctioned,” disrupted normal academic activities and created security concerns.

Early Wednesday morning, Metro Police said in a statement they had “worked to seek non-arrest methods to ease tensions” to protect GW students and campus, but there was a “gradual escalation in the volatility of the protest.”

“Therefore, this morning, in close collaboration with GW administration and police, MPD decided to disperse protesters from the GW campus and surrounding streets,” police said.

Police said the arrests involved assault on a police officer and unlawful entry.

Kent Nishimura/Getty Images

People listen to activists and students protest near an encampment at University Yard, George Washington University, April 28, in Washington, DC.

Smith said Monday there were signs the protest was becoming “more volatile and less stable,” pointing to an assault reported to GW police, the presence of “secret” counterprotesters in the crowd, students from other universities joining the camp and “objects”. which could potentially be used for offensive and defensive weapons… currently being collected. Protesters were given six warnings to disperse, and many obeyed, Smith said.

As police evacuated the encampment, officers deployed pepper spray during a skirmish at a nearby intersection, Smith told reporters. MPD Executive Deputy Chief Jeffery Carroll said law enforcement used pepper spray three times as protesters tried to push past officers to reach other people who had been arrested.

GW was informed that police were going to evacuate the protest encampment when the chief of the GW Police Department received a call from MPD at 1:30 a.m. Wednesday, according to a source with knowledge of school and police communications.

The university released a statement Wednesday calling the police action “orderly and safe.”

“We have no reports of serious injuries during this operation, and we are grateful for MPD’s assistance in this matter,” GW said.

Ahmed El Masry, a protester at the GW encampment, said he left the encampment around 2 a.m. but ran back about two hours later when he heard that police were working to clear the space. He said when he arrived he found “more than 20” police cars and said: “It looked like a war zone.”

“I come back at 4 p.m., and the whole camp is gone, and I see people that I protested with… being herded into vans,” he said.

“I’m angry, like we’re here to peacefully protest,” he said. “It was our camp… It became a community, as if we were defending something noble here. »

Dante O’Hara, a lead organizer of the DC for Ceasefire Now Coalition, a group critical of Israel’s war in Gaza, issued a statement calling on the House Oversight Committee to suspend military aid to Israel.

“Congress is creating this crisis. Pressuring local elected officials and university leaders to step up policing deflects responsibility from Congress itself for provoking protests like the GWU one,” O’Hara said.

The university is open and final exams will go ahead as scheduled, but police and security personnel will maintain a presence in and around the university grounds, the school said. The site will remain closed until the end of the work on May 19.

Police action at UMass-Amherst and FIT

03:04 – Source: CNN

Why pro-Palestinian protests are increasing in the United States

From Tuesday evening to Wednesday, police cleared encampments and arrested protesters at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York and the University of Massachusetts-Amherst.

At FIT, 50 people were arrested Tuesday evening after a large crowd gathered outside the school during a pro-Palestinian protest, according to the New York Police Department.

The arrests came after the school set a deadline of 7 p.m. – later extended to 9 p.m. – to dismantle an encampment in the school grounds and end the occupation of the museum lobby. school, according to a statement from FIT President Joyce F. Brown. Before the deadline, spokespeople for the student protesters called for a rally outside the school, and a group of protesters responded to their call, according to Brown.

“The NYPD maintained crowd control and tried to ensure the rally did not escalate further. However, as expected, the insistence of some students to continue the occupation resulted in further action by the NYPD,” Brown said.

The NYPD was unable to confirm how many of those arrested were students.

The arrests at UMass-Amherst came after the chancellor asked police to dismantle an encampment, the Massachusetts Daily Collegian reported.

“Moments ago, I asked the University of Massachusetts Police Department to begin dispersing the crowd and dismantling the encampment. Let us be clear: involving law enforcement is the absolute last resort,” Chancellor Javier Reyes wrote in a message to students obtained by the newspaper.

It is not clear how many people were arrested. CNN has reached out to UMass-Amherst and local police for information.

At universities across the country, police have used a variety of tactics to disperse protesters from occupied school buildings and dismantle campus encampments. Law enforcement experts told CNN that police were largely measured in their approach and showed restraint in their use of force – a direct result of lessons learned during widespread protests following the killing of George Floyd by the police almost four years ago.

Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly identified who was expected to testify. They were DC Mayor Muriel Bowser and DC Metropolitan Police Chief Pam Smith.

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