Mayor Muriel Bowser Was Expected to Testify About Her Handling of Pro-Palestinian Protests. It Was Abruptly Cancelled.

by Xara Aziz
Alex Wong/Getty Images

On Wednesday morning, the Republican-controlled House Oversight Committee announced the cancellation of a hearing slated for later that day, where lawmakers intended to question D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser about her handling of pro-Palestinian student protests at George Washington University. This decision followed a police raid that cleared the student encampment, which had been occupying a lawn on the university campus since April 25.

According to The GW Hatchet, the university’s student newspaper, more than 30 protesters were arrested by D.C.’s Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) around 3:30 a.m. on Wednesday. Police deployed pepper spray against protesters who refused to vacate the area or attempted to forcibly access the space to support protesters. Previously, MPD had declined to clear the encampment, stating that the student protesters had not engaged in violence, violent behavior, or confrontations, and were not considered a threat to public safety.

Mayor Bowser, a Democrat, had been summoned to appear before the House Oversight Committee by its chair, Rep. James Comer (R-Ky.), the previous week. Comer expressed deep concerns over reports indicating that the D.C. Metropolitan Police Department had rejected George Washington University’s request for help in removing the protesters, whom he described as radical, antisemitic, and unlawful. Bowser’s attendance had been confirmed by a committee spokesperson on Tuesday.

In a statement given to reporters hours after the encampment was cleared, MPD Chief Pamela A. Smith stated that the department had begun coordinating with Bowser on plans to clear the encampment on Monday, citing increased volatility within the protest. Smith confirmed that 33 protesters had been arrested on various charges of trespassing and assault against law enforcement, with no officers seriously injured during the event. She denied that the timing of MPD’s decision to clear the encampment had anything to do with the scheduled hearing.

Bowser informed reporters that she had spoken to Comer that morning, who expressed an interest in ensuring that the city and the chief could focus on the ongoing operation. She added that she expected the hearing to be cancelled, which indeed happened. In a statement announcing the cancellation, Comer expressed satisfaction that the potential oversight hearing had led to swift action by Mayor Bowser and MPD Chief Smith who “expressed interest in making sure that the city and the chief could focus on this ongoing operation.”

“I expect that that hearing will be pulled down,” Bowser added.  The hearing was indeed pulled down. In a statement announcing the cancellation of Wednesday’s hearing, Comer wrote that he was “pleased that the potential Oversight hearing led to swift action by Mayor Bowser and MPD Chief Smith.”

“Following the Metropolitan Police Department finally clearing out the unlawful encampment on GW’s campus, I am very pleased to announce that the hearing with Mayor Bowser has been canceled. I had a good conversation with Mayor Bowser. I thanked her for finally clearing the trespassers off the GW Campus,” Comer added.

Meanwhile, Rep. Jared Moskowitz (D- Fla.) applauded the MPD’s actions.

“As a [George Washington University] alumnus, I am happy to see the unlawful encampment on campus cleared out by MPD. It’s my hope MPD will continue to assist GW so that it can enforce its policies & code of conduct,” he wrote.

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