Washington D.C. police rejected pleas from George Washington University officials to clear pro-Palestinian demonstrators out of an on-campus encampment early Friday morning, saying they worried about the optics of moving against a small number of peaceful protesters, according to two officials familiar with the talks.

Iran PressAmerica: Officers had assembled around 3 a.m. and were prepared to enter the encampment, but senior leaders in the police chief’s and mayor’s office ordered them to stand down, the officials said. The demonstrators were small in number and largely peaceful, and the city officials told their university counterparts they wanted to avoid images of violent altercations between police and protesters flashing across TV screens across the country. The George Washington campus is just west of downtown Washington, five blocks from the White House.

As of Friday night, D.C. police had not sought to arrest anyone in the encampment, though university officials surrounded it with barricades and were not allowing new people to join. The city officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive police operations, said they had no immediate plans to clear the area known as University Yard along H Street between 20th and 21st streets NW. They noted that could change if the demonstrators began committing or advocating violence, or if radical groups joined the group’s ranks.

A spokeswoman for George Washington University did not answer questions about school officials’ discussions with law enforcement authorities. The school said in a statement, “After demonstrators refused multiple instructions to relocate, GWPD requested additional support from the DC Metropolitan Police to ensure the safety and security of all our community members through a measured and orderly approach.”

D.C. police also declined to comment on agency officials’ discussions with the university, and it was not immediately clear what tactics they considered using as officers prepared to enter the encampment Friday morning. D.C. police are accustomed to dealing with daily demonstrations over all manner of political issues in the nation’s capital, and they typically try to convince demonstrators to voluntarily surrender. But they can also use more aggressive tactics, donning riot gear, forming lines and forcefully trying to move large groups.

A statement from a D.C. police spokesman said officers have been monitoring the demonstration. Thus far, D.C. police have kept up a low-key presence near the protest sight.


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