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May 8, 2024

Statement on Recent DC College Protests

Councilmember Christina Henderson issued the following statement on the recent student protests on DC college campuses.

For Immediate Release
May 8, 2024
Sierra Wallace, Communications Director
(202) 355-8431

Washington, DC – Councilmember Christina Henderson issued the following statement on the recent student protests on DC college campuses.  

"On Monday afternoon, I spoke with the Deputy Mayor for Public Safety and Justice regarding the protest activities at George Washington University (GWU). She informed me that the Mayor’s Office and Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) had been in constant communication with officials at GWU over the past two weeks. MPD had deployed officers to monitor the University Yard and what was observed over the last few days was a largely peaceful First Amendment demonstration that did not pose an imminent threat to public safety or public health. It is unfortunate that tensions escalated last night.

"As we further assess what led MPD to change its posture with regard to clearing the University Yard encampment, I think it's important to remember a central reason why students at GWU and at college campuses across the nation are protesting in the first place. The District is home to many individuals with ties to both Israel and Gaza, including myself, as well as many more with strong convictions about the ongoing war. One thing that we should be able to agree on is that civilian lives should not continue to be lost in this conflict. A de-escalation of tensions and rhetoric cannot meaningfully occur if the streets of Gaza continue to be a war zone. We all should be calling for a peaceful resolution.

"Although the traditional academic year is winding down, I encourage our local universities to reflect on their strategies to peacefully engage with students and faculty in the midst of tense and heartfelt debates. A liberal arts education means, among other things, that one is exposed to a wide range of ideas, opinions, perspectives, and personalities—in an effort to hone a capacity for understanding different people and points of view. It is the hope that graduates also learn to practice tolerance and self-criticism and embody civility and humility. College campuses are a prime place for this learning to occur. Free expression may at times be contentious and controversial, but these are overall opportunities to enrich the learning environment if there is the courage to meaningfully engage."