US Capitol Police (USCP) faced off against hundreds of pro-Palestine demonstrators outside the Washington D.C. headquarters of the Democratic National Committee on Wednesday night, leaving both protesters and officers injured.
The “illegal and violent” gathering organized by activist groups If Not Now and Jewish Voice for Peace condemned American support for Israel’s war against Hamas in Gaza and demanded an immediate ceasefire.
Between 200-300 protesters gathered outside the DNC building in the Capitol Hill neighborhood of D.C. late on Wednesday afternoon, and the assembly quickly became violent as evening fell.
Democratic members of Congress were gathered inside the building for a party forum at the time of the protest. House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries and Minority Whip Katherine Clark had left by the time demonstrators arrived, but seven other congressional Democrats were forced to shelter in place once the crowd surrounded the building and blocked the exits. Armed officers were eventually brought in to evacuate the officials to nearby police vans.
Other nearby House office buildings were placed on restricted access as a precaution, locking down Republicans and Democrats alike until around 9 pm. Proceedings in multiple buildings were disrupted by the security threat and the sound of the crowd’s chanting.
“We have handled hundreds of peaceful protests, but last night’s group was not peaceful. The crowd failed to obey our lawful orders to move back from the DNC, where Members of Congress were in the building,” Capitol Police said in a statement on Thursday morning. “When the group moved dumpsters in front of the exits, pepper sprayed our officers and attempted to pick up the bike rack, our teams quickly introduced consequences — pulling people off the building, pushing them back, and clearing them from the area, so we could safely evacuate the Members and staff.”
— The U.S. Capitol Police (@CapitolPolice) November 16, 2023
Meanwhile, outside the building, protesters and police were locked in physical confrontations. Six officers sustained injuries ranging from mild cuts and bruises to being pepper strayed and punched, according to the USCP. All six were treated on-site by medical personnel.
When protesters attempted to enter the building, police began removing them from the premises, causing several demonstrators to fall down a short flight of stairs.
According to the protesters from If Not Now, who donned “Cease Fire Now” shirts and chanted pro-Palestinian slogans, the situation only became violent once police were involved.
“We were peacefully saying, ‘ceasefire now,’ and the cops violently pushed us to the ground, threw us to the ground,” one activist told Fox News. “The violence happening around the world is happening in our backyard.”
BREAKING: Police are being extremely violent outside @TheDemocrats headquarters.
We are linking arms, threatening no one, and begging our politicians to support an end to the killing and the suffering in Gaza. Begging, peacefully, for a ceasefire.
And this is the response. pic.twitter.com/ACdgM9ehYe
— IfNotNow🔥 (@IfNotNowOrg) November 16, 2023
Once the crowd was dispersed, at least one protester, identified as 24-year-old Ruben Arthur Camacho, was arrested for assault.
The demonstration at DNC headquarters came one day after an estimated 300,000 people attended a pro-Israel rally in the capital. The March for Israel, attended by lawmakers, Jewish community leaders, and the families of hostages taken by Hamas, culminated in a group prayer outside the White House.