GWU police cut down Palestinian flag after protesters raised it in place of university flag

George Washington University students demonstrate on campus at an encampment set up to protest the Israel-Hamas war on Thursday, May 2, 2024, in Washington. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)(AP/Jose Luis Magana)

Following a day of separate rallies in support of Palestine and Israel, ending in campus police removing both a Palestinian and an American flag on display at the encampment, pro-Palestinian student protesters on George Washington University’s campus in D.C. have entered day nine of their demonstration. The protests are part of a larger movement on campuses nationwide, which has so far led to over 2,000 arrests.

In a statement, GW said a university flag was “illegally removed” Thursday by protesters and replaced with the flag of Palestine, a violation of D.C. law and university policy. As police intervened, officers were surrounded by a crowd yelling “hostile chants” and were forced to withdraw to prevent further escalation, the university said.

GWPD removed all flags early Friday morning and the American flag is being raised in a new location on University Yard. The Palestinian flag was returned to a demonstrator, the university’s campus newspaper, The Hatchet, reported

On the previous afternoon, GWPD officers had removed the Palestinian flag, but it was raised again by protesters, according to The Hatchet.

In the university’s statement, GW said faculty have the option of offering classes virtually through Friday. The next period of final exams, which begins Saturday, is proceeding as planned. All exams taking place in Bell, Corcoran, Lisner and Samson halls, as well as the Media and Public Affairs building, are being relocated.

A pro-Palestinian rally was held Thursday morning at the University Yard, where the encampment is located. The purpose of that meeting was to “defend the progress the encampment has made,” according to a social media post from organizers.

Meanwhile, on campus at G Street Park, pro-Israel students held a “rally against campus antisemitism.” Rallygoers were joined by Republican Sen. Rick Scott, from Florida, who said the D.C. government was not doing enough to keep students safe during the more than weeklong pro-Palestinian protest. Relatives of hostages held by Hamas also spoke Thursday.

The rallies came after a visit from congressional Republicans, who criticized the hands-off approach taken by D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser and police in handling the pro-Palestinian encampment.

Oversight Committee Chair James Comer (R-Ky.) said university officials told lawmakers they want the encampment cleared.

“I would strongly encourage the mayor to have the police do their job and ensure that there’s at the very least no trespassing,” he said. “Peaceful protests are fine, but trespassing is against the law.”

While D.C. police have said they are monitoring the encampment, officials have not taken action to remove demonstrators from campus.

Pro-Palestinian demonstrations on GW’s campus remained nonviolent. Other college campuses, such as Columbia University in New York and UCLA, have seen clashes between police and protesters.

WTOP’s Jessica Kronzer and Kate Ryan contributed to this report. 

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Dana Sukontarak

Dana Sukontarak is a Digital Writer/Editor for She loves haiku poetry, short sci-fi stories and word games. She grew up in Prince George’s County, Maryland, and currently lives in Silver Spring.

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