Republicans use Gaza protests to threaten DC autonomy
MAGA Republican Sen. Tom Cotton is trying to make a name for himself by calling for crackdowns on students exercising their first amendment rights and by threatening autonomy for DC because it is not agreeing to call the cops on students. | AP

WASHINGTON, D.C. – This week, Congressional Republicans led by James Comer R., Ky., on the House Committee on Oversight and Accountability, sent a notice to DC’s Mayor Muriel Bowser and DC Police Chief Pamela Smith about a hearing concerning the “oversight of DC’s response to unlawful activity and antisemitism.”

This was in response to a Washington Post report that the Mayor’s Office and Police Chief rejected a request from George Washington University’s administration to clear the anti-genocide student encampment that has been in place for over a week.

On Wednesday, Comer along with MAGA Republicans Lauren Boebert, Anna Paulina Luna, Byron Donalds, and Eric Burlison, visited the peaceful encampment and attempted to speak to the press while being drowned out by the students and community members. The Republican lawmakers threatened to cut DC’s budget appropriations and wanted the DC Mayor to call in the National Guard to break up the peaceful encampment.

Under Home Rule and DC law, the Mayor has to submit a request to the President in order to bring in the National Guard. Mayor Bowser responded at a press conference saying, “The members have universities in their own districts. Especially the member in North Carolina and I was watching a lot of activity in North Carolina. It would seem that her energy would be best placed there.”

Last week, when it seemed like the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) was going to clear out the encampment soon after it began, the DC for Ceasefire Now Coalition organized a phone banking session to councilmembers and the Mayor’s office to urge the representatives to tell MPD to restrain itself.

The student encampment at George Washington University has been largely peaceful with minimal interactions by anti-Palestinian agitators, university administrative officials, and the police. The DC community has been largely supportive, with community members camping out with the students in order to protect the encampment.

DC officials have been largely silent on the student encampment at George Washington University. Councilwoman Janeese Lewis-George (Ward 4) has been the only DC politician to speak out in support of the students’ first-amendment rights and rights to assembly. Councilwoman Lewis-George has also been one of the vocal supporters on the DC Council for a ceasefire resolution. Council chairperson Phil Mendelson visited the encampment on Wednesday and was met by pro-ceasefire community members and students who confronted him on his continued refusal to allow a ceasefire resolution to come forward before the Council.

MAGA Republican Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas, has also spoken out against DC autonomy in relation to the encampment claiming “what looks bad publicly is DC allowing a band of antisemitic, mask-wearing fanatics who call for an ‘intifada revolution’ to turn a university into a pro-Hamas encampment.” He further noted, “your actions are a good reminder of why Washington, DC must never become a state.”

The House on Oversight Committee for Accountability hearing on DC is to take place next Wednesday, May 8 at 1 p,m.. The #HandsOffDC Coalition and DC for Ceasefire Now Coalition plan on mobilizing the DC community to turn out in support of DC’s autonomy and home rule against Congressional interference in local affairs.

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Jamal Rich
Jamal Rich

Jamal Rich writes from Washington, D.C. where he is active with the Claudia Jones School for Political Education.