As more demonstrators for this weekend’s World Bank and International Monetary Fund protests flood D.C., local, protest and University officials say they are continuing to prepare for a possible influx of more than 30,000 protesters.
Following last week’s decision by the University to close from April 14 at 10 p.m. until April 18 at 8 a.m., preparations have been underway. This is the first protest-related campus closure since 1970, when final exams were canceled and the school was forced to close early because of Vietnam War protests.
Windows on the GW Law School and the School of Media and Public Affair’s building on 20th Street, which houses the Electronic Media program, have been covered in Plexiglas. Already, residence halls are being secured around the clock, and students must show their GWorld cards to enter.
The protective measures are being taken for the safety of the students, said Barbara Porter, director of public affairs.
Construction crews are securing on-campus construction sites, Porter said.
University Police will be operating on 11-hour shifts throughout the weekend with nearly a double staff on duty, said Dolores Stafford, director of UPD. Stafford said officers would be on duty 24 hours a day in Mitchell Hall, Thurston Hall and Francis Scott Key Hall.
GW’s Emergency Medical Response Group will be on call around the clock with additional staff members.
Despite assurances from a16 organizers that the demonstration will be peaceful, many Foggy Bottom businesses and offices are taking extra safety precautions or closing for the weekend and through Monday.
Cheryl Johnson, a spokeswoman with the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, said there are no plans to close Metro stations.
According to The Washington Post, local business reaction to the protests is mixed. Tower Records in 2000 Pennsylvania Ave. will remain open barring any molotov cocktails thrown at us or windows being smashed, said general manager Freddi Szilagi in The Post.
Palm Sunday services at United Church on G Street will be moved to another location. Patio furniture will be moved inside at T.G.I. Friday’s.
On campus, organizers for GW a16 Coalition – so named for the date of planned protests – have held teach-ins and protests against the school’s policy of closed residence halls.
Our agenda is to vocalize the response of students about the lock down, said sophomore Justin Petrone, who participated in the Tuesday demonstration. I dislike not having a voice in the decision to shut down the University and lock down the dorms . And since I don’t have a voice this is the closest thing I can do – yell at the people to voice our concerns to the authority who didn’t listen to us in the first place.
Nearly 20 students participated in Tuesday’s demonstration, which made a circuit from UPD headquarters to Rice Hall and then to the Quad. Students carried signs that read GW saved us from protests. What about police? and Open GW now! and chanted Hey hey, ho ho, this campus lock down has got to go!
A similar protest was held Wednesday, campus organizers said.
The increased police and security presence on campus has caused headaches for some students and faculty.
I was walking to my dorm . and suddenly the police dog on the other side of the street started to bark, said sophomore Betsey Whitmore. The officer tried to get the dog to stop, but he kept barking. I just continued to walk, and a Metro police officer stopped me and asked me for ID. I showed him my GWorld (card), and he took it to show the other officers. He asked if I had a license, and I said no, and he told me he would have to escort me back to the dorm.
After entering FSK Hall, Whitmore said she went to her room for her license, and only then was she allowed to finally enter and stay in the building.
When he stopped me, I thought, `Oh God, someone put something in my backpack,’ she said. Then, when he was looking at my ID, I realized he was probably just being extra cautious.
According to a list of safety tips for students created by UPD, students should carry their GWorld cards with them at all times, avoid areas where a protest may be in progress, schedule activities away from campus, report any suspicious packages and be prepared to evacuate buildings at short notice.
We go to school in the middle of downtown D.C., it’s something you expect to happen, said GW alumnus Greg Valliere, who graduated from the University in 1974. During his time on campus, Valliere said the University was a staging ground for demonstrations against the war.
It was sort of a sanctuary for some of the more violent protesters, he said. There were people who were violent, militant and Marxists protesters who wanted to use GW as a sanctuary, and they did. We go to school in the middle of downtown D.C. – it’s something you expect to happen. I guess it’s a blessing and a curse.
-Steven Postal contributed to this report.