Violence broke out at a protest outside the Democratic National Committee headquarters in D.C. on Wednesday night with demonstrators calling for a cease-fire in Gaza.
U.S. Capitol Police said six of their officers were hurt and their injuries ranged from minor cuts to being pepper-sprayed to being punched. The department said one person was arrested in connection with assaulting an officer.
Just after 8:30 p.m., Capitol Police said their officers were working to keep back about 150 people who were “illegally and violently protesting” in the area of Ivy and Canal streets. The protest was organized by a coalition of groups, including If Not Now and Jewish Voice for Peace Action, that have spearheaded other demonstrations including one where 300 people were arrested on Capitol Hill in October.
The protest took place while many Democratic representatives, including House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, were inside the building for a campaign reception.
If Not Now said approximately 90 protesters were hurt “by violent attacks from the police.” One protester suffered a concussion, another was choked and thrown down stairs, and others were pepper sprayed, according to If Not Now.
“Police responded to peaceful protesters with overwhelming violence, and without any prior warning or request to disperse,” the group’s statement read. “Protesters were nonviolently engaging in civil disobedience by attempting to block some of the doors to the building while chanting “Cease-fire Now.” Police pepper sprayed indiscriminately, flailed barricades across the space, and threw people down the steps.”
Video posted to X, formerly known as Twitter, by the Jewish Voice for Peace Action showed officers attempting to push back demonstrators in front of the headquarters. Many of the demonstrators were wearing black shirts that read “Cease Fire Now.” The organization said officers “assaulted the anti-war peace protesters.”
According to The Associated Press, other video posted on social media showed protesters shoving police officers and trying to grab hold of metal barricades as the officers moved in to make arrests.
Capitol police said in a statement Thursday the crowd failed to obey lawful orders to move back from the DNC.
“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 Capitol police statement read.
The man arrested and charged with assault on a police officer is 24-year-old Ruben Arthur Camacho of Woodbridge, New York. Capitol police said he was arrested after officers saw Camacho slam another officer into a garage door and then punch the female officer in the face.
Speaking to demonstrators at the scene, 7News reporter Megan Clarke told WTOP some protesters felt “some kind of pepper spray or tear gas” used to separate them from officers. Some left the scene feeling the effects of the chemical agent in their eyes and throat.
“Some [were] just shaken up saying they came to protest for peace and hope for peace,” Clarke said. “They really didn’t expect the evening to take a turn toward violence like it did.”
In a statement Thursday, ACLU-D. C. called the police response “concerning.”
“Initial video evidence prompts serious questions about the police action, particularly about the level of force used and the absence of warnings or opportunities for protesters to disperse,” the statement read. “This incident calls for an investigation, and any identified misconduct must be met with accountability.”
Among the participants Wednesday night was Rabbi Jessica Rosenberg, who interrupted President Joe Biden’s speech at a fundraiser in Minneapolis earlier this month.
She said Democrats are “not listening to the people who they claim to represent,” adding that “actions like this are only going to increase.”
“We are not slowing down,” she said. “The call for a cease-fire is going to keep growing. And our representatives need to take action, yesterday.”
Capitol Police asked people to stay away from the area as its officers evacuated members of Congress who were at the DNC. Capitol Police also sent an alert to congressional staffers telling them no one would be permitted to enter or exit any House office buildings.
“Last night our team was quick, decisive, courageous and in control,” Capitol police said in their statement. “When demonstrations cross the line into illegal activity it is our responsibility to maintain order and ensure people’s safety.”
California Congressman Brad Sherman posted on X that he was among those evacuated. He also accused protesters of trying to break into the headquarters, but protesters denied that was their intention.
D.C. police, whose officers also responded to the scene, said all street closures caused by the demonstrations reopened at 10:30 p.m.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.