George Washington University (GW), located just six blocks from the White House, has advised its students to store up food, medicines, and other essential supplies to prepare for possible Election Day unrest.

In an email, the university told students to stockpile “as they would prepare for a hurricane or a snowstorm.”

The school is anticipating “potential disruptions” that could arise when preliminary election results are made public, since “some may want to celebrate and others may want to protest” in a “very active election season.”

Precautionary messages such as these are not unusual. In an email sent to The Washington Times, GW spokesperson Crystal Nosal said the school regularly sends out messages before events that are likely to draw crowds. She cited the Fourth of July and the Women’s March as examples.

Nosal clarified that the university administration does not anticipate government restrictions. However, there has been unrest in the DC area recently. The warning was issued to ensure that the campus community is prepared should there be disruption in the area and students may face blockades if they need to buy take-out food, medicine, or supplies.

Anxiety in the Capital

George Washington University’s hurricane metaphor seems appropriate. In downtown Washington, numerous shops are boarding up doors and windows as a precaution against civil unrest, much the way they would for an approaching storm.

Alex Provenzano is a salon owner in central DC who vividly remembers the aftermath of anti-lockdown protests in May: “The entire street was vandalized,” he recalled to USA Today. He had to put up plywood boards to protect his property in May and removed them in late July after the Black Lives Matter protests began to die down. 

However, he is putting them back up as Election Day draws near. Provenzano insists that he is a positive person but that “people are very stressed now” and the uncertainty is “pretty scary.”

No Credible Threat

Washington DC officials have stated that they are not aware of any credible threat on Election Day, nor have they advised businesses to protect their property. However, precautions should be taken for businesses that have previously experienced looting or vandalism.

The Downtown DC Business Improvement District has also encouraged businesses to take precautionary measures. They have suggested securing outdoor fixtures such as signage that can be used as projectiles, such as trash cans, bike racks, and newsstands.