WASHINGTON (DC News Now) — More than a hundred students rallied at George Washington University (GWU) on Wednesday in support of a student organization suspended from campus.
The university banned Students for Justice in Palestine from campus activities for 90 days, after the group projected pro-Palestine messages on the side of Gelman Library last month. Messages included “Your tuition is funding genocide in Gaza” and “Glory to our Martyrs.”
In a statement, the university said in part:
“On Oct. 24, the student organization GW Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) projected multiple images on the Estelle and Melvin Gelman Library.
After an investigation, the university determined that SJP’s actions violated university policies, including the Gelman Building Use Guidelines and the university’s policy against non-compliance, as SJP initially refused to comply with university officials’ directives to end the projections.
As a result, effective immediately, the university has prohibited SJP from participating in activities on campus.”
Students who organized the rally declined to speak to DC News Now Wednesday. However, the group waved the Palestine flag, held signs reading “free Palestine” and “shame on GW” and marched the streets towards university president Ellen Granberg’s home.
One person who attended said the action of the university was a First Amendment violation.
“I think it’s really important to show solidarity with these students. Especially with students who are being wrongly suspended for speaking out against genocide,” said one senior, who asked we not use her name in fear of retaliation from the school
The senior said she wasn’t surprised GWU took the action it did.
“I think they’re more concerned with protecting their funding than protecting their students and their students’ free speech,” she said.
The decision has been divisive.
“Projecting those images was very dangerous. Violence doesn’t just start out of nowhere. It starts from statements,” said Shani Glassberg, a Jewish Israeli student.
However, she did not agree with the decision to suspend SJP.
“Banning a student organization is not okay,” she said. “It’s creating more hate. It’s dividing the students. And instead of facilitating a place where a discussion can be held, it’s not doing that.”
“There’s a free speech argument to it, but just being on campus that day, there’s a line to be crossed and I think that line was crossed,” said one sophomore who asked we only use his middle name, Phil.
Phil, who is a Jewish student, said he’s tired of living in fear, as antisemitism and islamophobia have increased on campus.
He’s ready for the tensions to finally ease.
“It would be ideal for the tension to go down. I have not gone to synagogue [or] Jewish events for the last few weeks out of safety concerns,” he said. “I don’t want to be a target.”