Boebert, Donalds spar with protesters at George Washington

Boebert, Donalds spar with protesters at George Washington

Conservative House lawmakers sparred with campus protesters Wednesday at George Washington University (GW), where they toured the pro-Palestinian encampment that still stands despite repeated calls from the university for its removal.

In videos on social media, Republican Reps. Lauren Boebert (Colo.), Byron Donalds (Fla.), Anna Paulina Luna (Fla.), James Comer (Ky.) and others are seen facing down hecklers as they addressed a crowd at GW and moved through the packed protests.

Boebert particularly took issue with the Palestinian flag that was draped across a statue of George Washington near the encampment, and she was seen approaching the statue and tugging at the flag to try to remove it. She instructed those around her to remove the flag, noting the statue was federal property.

At another point, while speaking in front of a crowd, Boebert threatened to withhold federal funds if faculty didn’t address the issue.

“If the faculty here, who many are involved in this right now — I had people proudly saying that they are faculty — and not wanting to remove a Palestinian sign from the George Washington statue. If they don’t want to do something to address this? Well, then kiss your federal funding goodbye,” Boebert said, speaking over the protesters behind her.

When Luna took the megaphone, she referenced the protests behind her, saying, “There’s a really big difference between Palestine and what you guys are seeing behind us.”

“We know for a fact that there are professional organized protesters that are not students, who are currently inciting what you are seeing happen at this community right now,” she said. “There’s also a big difference between the First Amendment and peaceful protest and intentionally preventing people from being able to get an education, intentionally trespassing on property going around with signs, which we see, that say, ‘final solution,’ which you all know is racism. It’s not OK, and it should never be tolerated.”

Donalds, in a different moment that afternoon, was swarmed by protesters and reporters, one of whom asked what legislative authority GOP members had at the university.

“The legislative authority the Oversight Committee has within Washington, D.C., because the federal government does fund directly a lot of activities for the city. Because it’s a federal enclave,” he said, pausing repeatedly as he was shouted down by hecklers.

“That being said, the mayor has a responsibility to support George Washington. The encampment is now trespassing. That is what the university president and the administration has said: You are trespassing on GW. They’ve asked for support from the mayor. Mayor [Muriel] Bowser doesn’t want to come and support them. She needs to do her job,” he continued.

In the background, protesters are heard, including one who said, “Do you understand? Do you have any empathy? Do you feel any empathy towards the kids that are dying?”

Earlier Wednesday, Comer announced a House Oversight and Accountability Committee hearing next week that would focus on the GW protests, and he called Bowser and the chief of the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) as witnesses.

GW has already suspended multiple students after they would not leave the encampment that popped up last week, but the protest, one of dozens that have emerged on U.S. college campuses in opposition to Israel’s war in Gaza, has not been disbanded.

The Washington Post reported last week that MPD refused to confront the encampment despite a request from the private university. And two officials familiar with the discussions said the police were worried about how it would look due to the small number of peaceful protesters in the area.

A spokesperson for Bowser, when reached for comment about the reports, referred The Hill to her comments at a press conference earlier Wednesday. At the press conference, she did not go into specifics about whether she denied or turned down requests for help.

“I haven’t ever turned down requests for help,” she said in response to the question Wednesday. “We support all of our employers, all of our universities, and our police police the laws of the District of Columbia. But I also wouldn’t talk about particulars of any private meeting that I have.”

Regarding the Tuesday meeting with GW officials, Bowser said earlier at the press conference, “We are in constant communication with GW officials and have been throughout, to be supportive to hear their concerns and for them to understand how to work directly with the district government.”

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