A GW Police Department officer appeared to push a student down a set of stairs during a protest organized by Sunrise GW in multiple videos The Hatchet obtained.
Victoria Freire – a freshman and a member of Sunrise GW, a student organization that works to combat climate change and reduce the University’s fossil fuel dependence – said she filed a police report alleging that a GWPD officer pushed her down the stairs of F Street House, the on-campus residence of University President Thomas LeBlanc. Freire said she was participating in Wednesday’s march that Sunrise GW organized to deliver a letter to officials asking GW to divest from the fossil fuel industry.
She said a GWPD officer told her and other protesters that they were trespassing on private property and began using physical force to remove protesters from the stairs.
“I just said that ‘I’m a student, I have a right to be here,’ and he immediately started forcefully pushing me down the steps,” she said.
Multiple videos, which were obtained by The Hatchet and have been circulated on social media, appear to show an officer placing his hand on Freire’s arm and pushing her down the stairs.
“I hit my head and I started crying because I’ve had three concussions, so I thought that I was in the same situation,” Freire said. “All of this happened in probably 45 seconds to a minute timeline, so it was a very emotional, angry reaction.”
She said her friend told the officer that students would be filing police reports and the officer responded by saying, “It wouldn’t be the first time.”
Freire said she did not seek medical attention and has not received a copy of the police report she filed. She declined to comment on how she hopes GWPD will handle the incident.
Scott Burnotes, the associate vice president of safety and security, said officials are aware of the incident “involving a group of students assembling on F Street,” and the University recognizes and is committed to upholding students’ right to free speech.
Burnotes said officials are working with students to gather information for a report, and anyone with information about the incident can make a statement with GWPD or submit an online complaint.
“We will fully investigate complaints in accordance with University and department procedures,” he said.
Burnotes declined to say how many police reports were filed in connection with the protest. He declined to confirm the name of the officer involved in the incident or that the officer pushed Freire down the stairs.
Burnotes declined to confirm that the officer told Freire that “it wouldn’t be the first time” in response to her friend letting the officer know that she intended to file a police report against him.
The protest came one day after Sunrise GW interrupted a 10-year anniversary event of the Regulatory Studies Center – a research hub that has been criticized for accepting donations from ExxonMobil and the Charles Koch Foundation.
LeBlanc, the University president, apologized for making an “insensitive” racial analogy while speaking with a member of Sunrise GW Saturday.