D.C. police defend decision to allow George Washington U.’s camp to remain – NBC4 Washington

DC police said they will stand by their policy of not clearing the pro-Palestinian camp at George Washington University as long as it remains peaceful.

Metropolitan Police Chief Pamela Smith made her first official comments Thursday after the demonstration in downtown DC began eight days earlier. She said police have no plans to remove the protesters.

“I think here in the District of Columbia we give people the opportunity to have freedom of speech, and that’s what we’re seeing right now. There has been no violence, no violent behavior, no confrontations,” Smith said.

Smith and Mayor Muriel Bowser have come under intense criticism from Republican members of the House Oversight Committee for allowing the protests to continue.

News4 examined the policies that guide the department in determining if and when to intervene in any protest. The policy includes a pre-mass arrest checklist. Factors include:

  • If there is any injury or material damage
  • Whether arrest could cause more injuries or property damage
  • Whether there are sufficient police and prison resources to handle arrests
  • Whether there is a viable alternative to mass arrests

Both pro-Palestinian and pro-Israeli groups held peaceful rallies on campus Thursday.

Peaceful pro-Israel and pro-Palestinian rallies were held at George Washington University on Thursday morning. News4 has team reporting from reporters Aimee Cho and Joseph Olmo.

Republican Senator Rick Scott of Florida attended the pro-Israel rally and said he wants police to clear the pro-Palestinian camp.

“What these protesters are doing is despicable. It’s disgusting, it’s un-American. Everyone has the right to protest, but you have no right to trespass. And you can’t express hatred,” he said.

The House Oversight Committee has scheduled a hearing for next Wednesday on how county leaders handled the encampment. Bowser and Smith said they have not yet decided whether they will accept invitations to testify.

In the pro-Palestinian camp, students said they have no intention of leaving until the school cuts financial support to Israel. The graduation weekend is now in two weeks.

Stay with NBC Washington for more details on this developing story.