Protesters, cops clash in DC streets as George Washington University protest encampment cleared

Police and protesters clashed in the streets of the nation's capital Wednesday morning after officers began clearing out the pro-Palestine protest encampment on the campus of George Washington University.

The action by police came hours after a group of demonstrators left the site and marched to the university president’s nearby home and nearly two weeks after demonstrators began protest activities over the Israel-Hamas war on University Yard. 

School officials had warned in statements of possible suspensions for students engaging in protest activities. "While the university is committed to protecting students’ rights to free expression, the encampment had evolved into an unlawful activity, with participants in direct violation of multiple university policies and city regulations," the university said in a statement.

Police moved in around 3 a.m. when officers gave loud orders to disperse. Those who wanted to leave peacefully were allowed to do so and moved to the corner of 21st & H Streets.

D.C. Police Chief Pamela Smith said 33 arrests were made, including for assault on a police officer and unlawful entry. Some protesters were pepper sprayed as police blocked them from the camp.

FOX 5’s Melanie Alnwick said law enforcement and demonstrators briefly clashed a few blocks away where protesters tried to push through bicycle barricades. 

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Police clear pro-Palestine encampment at George Washington University; clashes on DC streets


Protesters march to GWU president's DC home over unmet demands

Dozens of pro-Palestine protesters left the encampment site at George Washington University Tuesday and marched to President Ellen Granberg's home in Northwest.

FOX 5’s Maureen Umeh was near the campus where some of the demonstrators were being treated by medics to flush their eyes of the pepper spray that was deployed in the area.

Smith said the decision to remove the protesters and clear the encampment was made Monday with D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser after they reviewed intelligence gathered and determined that the protest was becoming less stable and more volatile. 

Police were dispatched to the campus just hours after demonstrators marched to President Ellen Granberg’s home on Tuesday night. Protesters carried signs that read, "Free Palestine" and "Hands off Rafah," as they marched to Granberg’s home. Police were called to control the crowd. No serious injuries to any of the officers were reported.

"I fully support and encourage our community to speak out and engage in controversial and critical dialogues on these crucial issues—as long as they occur within the limits of our university's policies and the District's laws," Granberg said in a statement released over the weekend. "However, what is currently happening at GW is not a peaceful protest protected by the First Amendment or our university’s policies. 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."

D.C. police released the following statement to FOX 5 on Wednesday morning:

"The District of Columbia supports individuals peacefully exercising their First Amendment rights. The Metropolitan Police Department has been supporting the George Washington University in assessing and monitoring First Amendment activities that began on campus on April 25, 2024. The Department has worked to pursue non-arrest methods to deescalate tensions during this time and ensure the safety of the GW students and campus. Based on incidents and information, there has been a gradual escalation in the volatility of the protest. Therefore, this morning, working closely with the GW administration and police, MPD moved to disperse the demonstrators from the GW campus and surrounding streets. During the course of the operation, arrests were made for Assault on a Police Officer and Unlawful Entry. MPD will continue to be supportive of universities or other private entities who need assistance.,"

Cleanup crews have moved in to clear the site of the former encampment of trash and debris.

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Police cleared out the pro-Palestine protest encampment on the campus of George Washington University early Wednesday morning hours after a group of demonstrators left the site and marched to the university president’s nearby home.

Road closures near GWU

The following roads are closed currently due to protest activity near George Washington University: 

- 2000 Block of H St NW btw from 20th & 23rd St's NW
- EB 2100 Block of Pennsylvania Ave NW from 21st to 20th St's NW
- NB 600 – 800 Blocks of 20th St NW from F St to Pennsylvania Ave NW

Street closures are subject to change, per MPD.

The Associated Press contributed to this report