George Washington University released a statement on Wednesday about the demonstration Tuesday night that saw a group of students with Students for Justice in Palestine project genocidal anti-Israel messages on a campus building endowed by a Jewish family. The controversy comes as GWU is being investigated by the Biden administration for allegedly discriminating against Palestinian students.
The national Students for Justice in Palestine group released a poster for use by its chapters celebrating the October 7 genocidal massacre of 1,400 Israelis (and 33 Americans) by Palestinians who invaded Israel from neighboring Hamas-controlled Gaza.
Messages projected on GWU’s Estelle and Melvin Gelman Library by the Students for Justice in Palestine included “Glory to Our Martyrs”, “Free Palestine From the River to the Sea”, “Divestment From Zionist Genocide Now”, “GW The Blood of Palestinians Is on Your Hand”, ” Your Tuition Is Funding Genocide in Gaza”, “5000 Palestinians Were Murdered by “Israel” in the Last Two Weeks”, and “President Granberg Is Complicit in Genocide in Gaza”.
Campus police were seen on video telling the demonstrators they would be getting a ticket for projecting onto the building and threatened to shut down the projector if the students did not do so themselves. The students eventually stopped after arguing with police.
Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) posted several comments on the incident, questioning federal funding and the tax-exempt status for the influential university:
“I hope GWU does the right thing. But if it doesn’t—that is, if GWU chooses to side with those advocating genocide against Jewish people in Israel—it should never receive a dime of taxpayer funding again. For that matter, perhaps it will be time to review GWU’s tax-exempt status.”
I hope GWU does the right thing. But if it doesn’t—that is, if GWU chooses to side with those advocating genocide against Jewish people in Israel—it should never receive a dime of taxpayer funding again. For that matter, perhaps it will be time to review GWU’s tax-exempt status. https://t.co/IXQxfaU6ba
— Mike Lee (@BasedMikeLee) October 25, 2023
“These are genocidal messages displayed on a building at George Washington University. If the students responsible for these messages aren’t severely punished by GWU, something is terribly wrong. Genocide isn’t hip, cute, or in any way acceptable. GWU—do the right thing NOW!”
These are genocidal messages displayed on a building at George Washington University. If the students responsible for these messages aren’t severely punished by GWU, something is terribly wrong.
Genocide isn’t hip, cute, or in any way acceptable. GWU—do the right thing NOW! pic.twitter.com/PwTCEYKDmL
— Mike Lee (@BasedMikeLee) October 25, 2023
Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO) also called out GWU, “Will GW leadership condemn this?”
Will GW leadership condemn this? https://t.co/R3yxKmC8y3
— Josh Hawley (@HawleyMO) October 25, 2023
Video of campus police confronting the demonstrators:
The four students responsible for the pro terrorist light show are now being confronted by police.
They refuse to move and continue to argue with police.
— StopAntisemitism (@StopAntisemites) October 25, 2023
On Tuesday evening, the university became aware of several unauthorized projections on a campus building. The projections on the university’s library violated university policy, and leadership intervened to ensure that these projections were removed.
The statements made by these individuals in no way reflect the views of the university. We are reviewing this incident and will take any appropriate steps with respect to the individuals involved in accordance with university policies.
We recognize the distress, hurt, and pain this has caused for many members of our community. The university will continue to communicate with all members of its community about the support resources available during this difficult time.
President Granberg will be communicating directly with the university community on this matter.
University Statement on Projections on Campus pic.twitter.com/SzEIKFBkIr
— GW University (@GWtweets) October 25, 2023
The independent student newspaper the GW Hatchet reported on the demonstration (excerpt):
A group of students sparked outcry Tuesday night after they projected messages criticizing Israel, GW and University President Ellen Granberg onto Gelman Library before officials told the group to take down the demonstration.
University officials and two GW Police Department officers instructed four student demonstrators from Students for Justice in Palestine to stop projecting phrases protesting the Israel-Hamas war, including “End the siege on Gaza” and “GW the blood of Palestine is on your hands.” The protesters, whose demonstration gained significant attention online from major groups and figures accusing the students of antisemitism, left after a tense conversation with an officer.
The group of four sat on the ground in Kogan Plaza and used a slideshow to project the messages onto the eastern wall of the library. A GWPD officer on scene said Dean of Students Colette Coleman advised officials to stop the demonstration.
…The demonstrators stopped projecting at about 10 p.m. and prepared to leave while chanting “Who keeps us safe?” to answers from some crowd members of, “We keep us safe.” At the same time, other onlookers joined in unison to sing the national anthem of Israel and the Jewish song “Oseh Shalom,” a prayer for peace.
The SJP representative said the group is calling for an immediate condemnation of the violence toward Gaza and a retraction of all statements in which officials have labeled the group’s mourning as celebrations of terrorism. SJP “wholeheartedly condemns” Granberg and Coleman for being “complicit” in violence against Palestinian people, the representative said.
“We want to name them explicitly as being involved in this University’s symbolic and material ties to genocide and to the Zionist entity,” the representative said.
Earlier this year the Biden administration opened an investigation into GWU for alleged discrimination against Palestinian students (DC News Now excerpt):
The Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights opened an investigation after an organization filed a federal civil rights complaint against George Washington University (GWU).
…Palestine Legal, an organization that provides legal advice, training, advocacy, and litigation support to college students, activists, and others who call for justice in Palestine, filed a Title VI Complaint against GWU. The filing came after Palestinian students complained about mistreatment and discrimination.
The organization said it first got involved at the university a few years back when it represented a student who was facing disciplinary punishment for having a Palestinian flag on a dorm window, despite the fact that students of other nationalities had flags outside their windows and did not face any punishment.
…One of the students, who asked not to be identified, told DC News Now that despite enjoying his/her program at the university, being there has become increasingly uncomfortable. The student described experiencing “insinuations of the savagery of the Palestinian people” and people’s belief “that we are the instigators of our own demise.”
The federal complaint states that, for years, Palestinian students have dealt with anti-Palestinian comments in class, been investigated by GWU police, denied access to mental health services, and falsely accused of committing crimes.
“As Palestinians coming to the U.S., Canada, my parents, and I’m sure many other kids can attest to this, you’re told to shut up, you’re told to not say anything, no matter how much you feel the need to,” said the student, who asked not to be named. “It reached the point where I was at a crossroads of I can just stay quiet like I always have and nothing happens….Or I can use my voice and take on the opportunity that was handed to me and actually try to create some change.”