GW president says campus encampment ‘potentially dangerous’

The president of George Washington University (GW) released a statement Sunday saying the pro-Palestinian encampment on its campus is “potentially dangerous” and has been “co-opted” by individuals unaffiliated with the school.

Ellen Granberg started her message by reiterating the school’s commitment to protecting protests that are peaceful and occur within the law, but said the “demonstration, like many around the country, has grown into what can only be classified as an illegal and potentially dangerous occupation of GW property.”

“[W]hen protesters overrun barriers established to protect the community, vandalize a university statue and flag, surround and intimidate GW students with antisemitic images and hateful rhetoric, chase people out of a public yard based on their perceived beliefs, and ignore, degrade, and push GW Police Officers and university maintenance staff, the protest ceases to be peaceful or productive,” Granberg said. “All of these things have happened at GW in the last five days.”

She partly blamed those unaffiliated with the university for the state of the encampment, a similar message to what other schools have given amid the protests.

At numerous schools where police force has been used, some of those arrested have been found to have no affiliation with the university.

GW has reportedly requested the help of the D.C. police, but they have refused to get rid of the encampment.

“As a university, we are not equipped to single-handedly manage an unprecedented situation such as this. The GW police force is, and should only be, prepared to protect our community during normal university operations and to respond to routine and urgent incidents. When unlawful activities go beyond these limits, we must rely on the support and experience of the DC Metropolitan Police Department,” Granberg said.

“At this time, the District is in communication with the university, and the DC Metropolitan Police are providing an increased security presence on and around University Yard,” she added.

The Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) chapter in the D.C. area denounced the president’s statement, saying she is lying and trying to villainize students.

“This statement is an implicit threat to employ escalated state force against the students, staff, faculty, and DC community members who have been steadfast in our solidarity with the Palestinian people. It is shameful that Granberg would rather brutalize our community to please her zionist donors than confront the university’s complicity in genocide,” the group said.

The group said claims of outside influence on the encampment ignore the will of the community, and that the attempts to use police force “have failed while support from the community has allowed us to sustain the encampment.”

The situation escalated last week after House Committee on Oversight and Accountability Chair James Comer (R-Ky.) called for a hearing Wednesday to address why the police wouldn’t respond to the request by the private university.

Multiple Republican House members also visited the campus last week amid the protests, getting into arguments with demonstrators and having to yell as activists tried to drown out their speeches.

“If the faculty here, who many are involved in this right now — I had people proudly saying that they are faculty — and not wanting to remove a Palestinian sign from the George Washington statue. If they don’t want to do something to address this? Well, then kiss your federal funding goodbye,” Rep. Lauren Boebert (Colo.) said during the event, into a megaphone so she could be heard.

For the latest news, weather, sports, and streaming video, head to The Hill.