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Howard students join pro-Palestinian encampment at George Washington University

Students from various D.C. universities, including Howard, protest in a pro-Palestinian encampment on GW’s campus, demanding divestment from Israel.

Since April 25, dozens of college students in the D.C. area have set up a “liberated zone” encampment on George Washington University’s yard. (Keith Golden Jr./The Hilltop)

Howard University students joined dozens of other D.C. students last week in a pro-Palestinian encampment on George Washington University (GW)’s campus, which covered the Univeristy Yard and parts of H Street.

The GW encampment, organized by the DMV Students for Justice in Palestine on April 25, comes as part of a nationwide effort from college students calling on their institutions to divest from Israel amid the ongoing Israel-Gaza war.

Students from GW, Howard University, American University, Georgetown University and Gallaudet University pitched and shared tents, distributed food items to one another and sang pro-Palestinian chants from the encampment, described as a “liberation zone,” which entered its fourth day on Sunday. 

Aaron B., a Howard University political science major who preferred to withhold their last name out of fear of retaliation, said they joined the demonstration to stand in solidarity with the GW students and “demand an end to our universities’ complicity in the ongoing genocide in Gaza.”

According to the Gaza Health Ministry, since Oct. 7, more than 30,000 Palestinians have died from Israeli strikes on Gaza. 

“There are currently no universities left in Gaza as a result of Israel’s 200 day siege on the people of Palestine,” Aaron said. “As students of the country that is providing billions of dollars in military aid to the Israeli government, we have a special responsibility to stand up for the students of Palestine and to demand an end to the war. Youth deserve a future of peace.”

Student protesters took to megaphones from behind the fenced-off encampment to demand the protection of pro-Palestinian speech on campuses, dropped charges against pro-Palestine student organizers and divestment from militaristic partnerships – including calls to end Howard University’s $90 million research contract with the Department of Defense. 

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“I stand with my comrades unwavering in our solidarity with Gaza and our commitment to remain firmly in our liberation zone until those demands are met,” a George Washington University student protester said during a press conference from the encampment.

On April 25, GW President Ellen Granberg called the encampment an “unauthorized use of university space” and requested assistance from the Metropolitan Police Department to “relocate” protesters.

“Occupying campus grounds, establishing outdoor encampments, and blocking access to buildings create safety concerns and can disrupt learning and study, especially during this critical final exam period,” Granberg wrote. “Such activities are inconsistent with the university’s mission, values, and commitment to providing a safe environment for all students and employees.”

A student sits in her tent on H Street, where more than a dozen other tents occupy the street in protest of the university. (Keith Golden Jr./The Hilltop)

Following the announcement, a Washington Post report found that D.C. police rejected the request from GW officials and have not sought to arrest any protesters at this time, though seven students were reportedly suspended from the university for their participation inside the encampment.

As the GW demonstration continues, and more encampments emerge across the county, some faculty members in the DMV area have lent support to student protesters, writing an open letter signed by more than 300 professionals, including more than 20 Howard University professors. 

“The students engaging in protests today are upholding and strengthening the proud tradition of protest, dissent, and free speech,” the letter read. “Should the current administration choose to stand in their way, it will be on the wrong side of history.”

For first-year GW student Bryson Handy, the nationwide protests on college campuses offer students an opportunity to participate in pro-Palestinian activism alongside their peers.

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“You can look around and see that there’s a vast swath of students getting involved, people who really haven’t gone out and protested at all during the entire war in Gaza,” Handy said. “I’ve seen people all over, it’s definitely attracting a wide variety of people.”

Copy edited by Alana Matthew

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