George Washington University Tells Students to Brace for Potential Post-Election Unrest

November 2, 2020 Updated: November 2, 2020

George Washington University is urging students to stockpile food and medicine in an effort to prepare for “possible election-related disruptions” on or near the university’s campus in Washington.

In an Oct. 30 email, GWU’s student affairs and residential living officials suggested that students living on or near campus prepare for Election Day, a designated university holiday, “as you normally would for a hurricane or a snowstorm” that would prevent them from going outside for days.

Before Election Day, students are advised to stock up on at least a week’s supply of long-lasting food and over-the-counter medication, and refill any prescriptions that may run out in the next two weeks.

Starting Election Day, the university said students should be “aware of their physical surroundings,” ensure doors are closed and locked, and carry identification cards at all times.

“Some may want to celebrate while others may protest,” the email read. For students who plan to join celebrations or demonstrations after the election results are public, the university provided a slew of tips, including staying in groups, seeking shelter indoors when there is a disturbance, and observing directions from law enforcement personnel.

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Workers put up plywood to board up buildings as they make plans for potential civil unrest during the U.S. presidential race for the White House in Washington on Nov. 2, 2020. (Daniel Slim/AFP via Getty Images)

Crystal Nosal, a GWU spokesperson, said in a statement that the university has sent similar messages to students when massive gatherings of people are expected to occur in the city, such as Women’s March protests and Fourth of July celebrations.

“While we do not anticipate access restrictions around our campus, it is possible given the unrest that has been seen in D.C. and around the country in the past several months,” Nosal wrote. “Our goal is to help our campus community plan ahead for any potential disruption that may happen during the election period.”

The university’s warning comes after the Metropolitan Police Department released a traffic advisory, imposing parking restrictions on streets in much of downtown Washington due to “multiple First Amendment demonstrations” that are scheduled for Nov. 3 and 4.

Peter Newsham, the city’s police chief, said last month that the police department purchased more than $100,000 worth of tear gas canisters and grenades in preparation for possible post-election riots.

“In law enforcement circles, it is widely believed there will be civil unrest after the November election, regardless of who wins,” Newsham told WUSA9. “Now is not the time to restrict the police department’s ability to effectively deal with illegal rioting.”