GWPD officer who allegedly shoved protester placed on administrative leave

Media Credit: File Photo by Lillian Bautista | Contributing Photo Editor

The student involved in the incident said her friend told the officer that students would file police reports, to which she said the officer responded by saying, “It wouldn’t be the first time.”

A GW Police Department officer has been placed on administrative leave after he appeared to push a student down a flight of stairs during a climate protest Wednesday.

Scott Burnotes, the assistant vice president of safety and security, said in an email sent to GW community members Thursday that his division is “working with students” to gather “detailed information” about an incident that occurred Wednesday at University President Thomas LeBlanc’s on-campus residence, the F Street House. The altercation came during a protest led by Sunrise GW calling on officials to divest GW’s endowment from the fossil fuel industry.

“We will fully investigate complaints in accordance with University and department procedures,” he said in the email. “I can share that the officer who was involved in the alteration with the student has been placed on administrative leave, as part of the investigation.”

During the demonstration, an officer appeared to push Victoria Freire, a freshman and a member of Sunrise GW, down the F Street House’s front steps. Freire said she filed a police report yesterday about the altercation.

Freire did not immediately return a request for comment.

Burnotes encouraged anyone with information about the incident to make a statement with GWPD or submit information online on the Division of Safety and Security’s Complaints and Commendations page.

“The University places a high value on our students’ right to free speech, and we are committed to protecting their right to do so safely,” he said.

The demonstration comes days after LeBlanc apologized for using an “insensitive” racial analogy while talking to a member of Sunrise GW about fossil fuel divestment over the weekend, during which he disclosed that 3 percent of GW’s endowment is connected to the fossil fuel industry. The Progressive Student Union called for LeBlanc’s resignation following the remarks, and the Faculty Association condemned the president’s comments Wednesday.

Sunrise GW members interrupted a panel discussion at the Regulatory Studies Center’s 10-year anniversary event Tuesday. The center, which hosts events with prominent government leaders and publishes research, has been criticized for accepting donations from right-wing donors connected to fossil fuel companies, but officials maintain that donations do not affect the center’s hiring and research findings.

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