In Protests

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About 100 students rallied in Kogan Plaza on Wednesday afternoon to protest GW’s suspension of Students for Justice in Palestine at GWU following their projections of anti-Israel messages that criticized GW’s response to the Israel-Hamas war last month.

The protest was led by at least four student organizations, who formed the Student Coalition for Palestine at GWU this week in response to officials suspending SJP on Tuesday after four of its members projected messages onto Gelman Library lambasting Israel, GW and University President Ellen Granberg last month. The coalition demanded GW revoke SJP’s suspension and advocate for Palestinians, calling for an end to Israel’s continued assault on the Gaza Strip.

Students commenced the demonstration in Kogan Plaza at about 4 p.m., hoisting signs that read “smash fascism” and “GW is silencing students against genocide.”  Members from participating campus organizations, including Jewish Voice for Peace at GWU and No Guns for GW, delivered brief remarks between chants like “Whose campus? Our campus” to the about 100 students who voiced their support for SJP’s right to protest and condemned the University’s decision to suspend the organization from campus.

A coalition representative delivered a message from SJP that said the group rejects officials’ latest “gag order” on their organization and the repression of pro-Palestinian student activism. The representative said they refuse to submit to GW’s “fascist, imperial agenda” and that the University’s suspension will not silence SJP.

“We refuse to relent in the face of GW’s genocidal interest and their cowardly attempts to censor us,” the representative said. “The student movement will not be silenced.”

On Tuesday, officials barred SJP from sponsoring or organizing on-campus activities on GW property and from using indoor or outdoor University facilities for at least the next 90 days after officials determined the group’s October projections onto the library violated GW policy. At the conclusion of the 90-day suspension, officials will continue to restrict SJP’s use of campus facilities through the end of the academic year, according to a University statement shared with The Hatchet. The statement did not specify how officials planned to do so.

Members of student organizations like GW Black Defiance, UndocuGW, GW Reproductive Autonomy and Gender Equity, the Arab Student Association and the Muslim Student Association spoke in solidarity with SJP at the protest.

University officials like GW Police Department Chief James Tate, Assistant Dean of Student Life Brian Joyce and Multicultural Student Services Center Director Dustin Pickett stood on the outskirts of the crowd, watching the demonstration from a few dozen feet away.

A representative who spoke on behalf of MSA said there is a “double standard” from the media and administrators when it comes to their mourning and fight for Palestinians. They also denounced GW for not openly condemning reports of unknown people ripping hijabs off Muslim students on campus.

“Shame on GW for failing to condemn the genocide against the people of Palestine,” the MSA representative said in a speech. “Shame on GW for funding the racist Zionist state of Israel.”

A representative from Jewish Voice for Peace — an anti-Zionist Jewish student organization — said officials allow Zionist students to propagate “racist narratives” and “Islamophobic hate crimes” but endanger the security and dignity of its anti-Zionist students. They said GW officials like Office of Student Rights and Responsibilities Director Christy Anthony and GWPD officers like Sean Brown, who responded to the Oct. 24 projections on Gelman library, have failed to uphold the University’s SRR values.

“So where are the rights of Palestinian, Arab and anti-Zionist students? Who will be responsible for our speech?” the JVP representative said in a speech.

A representative from Black Defiance said GW SJP’s suspension from organizing is discriminatory toward voices who are protesting Israel’s assault on Gaza, which follows a trend of universities suspending SJP and JVP chapters. Columbia University suspended its chapters of SJP and JVP through the end of the fall term Friday and Brandeis University announced it would no longer acknowledge its SJP chapter due to the national organization’s reported support for Hamas, according to Brandeis’ release.

The Black Defiance representative said those advocating for the rights of Black people and Palestinians are “crying the same cry” for justice.

“We know that, when the school silences one organization, they’re trying to silence all of us, and we know that we cannot let this happen,” the representative said in a speech. “The Palestinian cause is not a cause for Palestinians only but a cause for every person.”

Demonstrators began marching to Granberg’s F Street House at around 5:20 p.m., where they chanted phrases like “Granberg, Granberg, you can’t hide, you are funding genocide,” “Whose streets? Our streets,” and “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free.” While walking down 21st Street toward F Street, a counter protester called the pro-Palestinian demonstrators “Nazis.”

After reaching Granberg’s house, marchers then weaved back through campus and circled the four blocks surrounding Kogan Plaza about four times, continuing to bang on pots and pans and chant “When SJP is under attack, what do we do? Stand up, fight back,” and “We will not rest, ‘til you divest.”

GWPD and Metropolitan Police Department units blocked sections of F, G, H, 20th, 21st and 22nd streets to stop vehicle access on the march route until roughly 6 p.m., when the demonstration came to a close.

“We do not accept fascism at this school,” a demonstrator chanted as protestors dispersed. “We do not accept political repression at this school.”

Erika Filter contributed reporting.

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