A large group of pro-Palestinian protesters clashed with U.S. Capitol Police outside the Democratic National Committee (DNC) headquarters in Washington, D.C., leading to a tense standoff and multiple injuries among the officers. The demonstrators, demanding an immediate ceasefire in Gaza, gathered in significant numbers, resulting in the evacuation of lawmakers from the DNC building.
Approximately 150 protesters, according to Capitol Police, assembled on Canal Street and Ivy Street, SE, with social media postings indicating their call for a ceasefire in the Middle East. The situation escalated quickly, prompting a robust police response to contain the protest, which Capitol Police described as “illegal and violent.”
Congressman Brad Sherman, D-Calif., recounted being inside the DNC when he was evacuated, describing the police response as urgent. “The Capitol Police came in big time and said, ‘We’re getting you out of here,'” Sherman told ABC News. In total, about seven members of Congress, including top Democratic leadership like Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, Whip Katherine Clark, and Pete Aguilar, were present at the forum during the evacuation.
In a separate incident, Congressman Sean Casten, D-Ill., was evacuated from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee office. Casten took to X, formerly Twitter, to express his gratitude towards the Capitol Police for ensuring the safety of all members and staff.
However, the nature of the protest has been a subject of controversy. IfNotNow, one of the organizing groups, described the protest as peaceful, accusing the police of responding violently. “We are linking arms, threatening no one, and begging our politicians to support an end to the killing and suffering in Gaza,” the group stated on X. This contrasts with the characterization by Rep. Brad Sherman, who described the protesters as “pro-terrorist, anti-Israel,” alleging they used pepper spray against police officers.
Eva Borgwardt, spokesperson for IfNotNow, refuted Sherman’s claims, labeling them as “dangerous and reckless misinformation” about their nonviolent movement. Borgwardt called for Sherman to apologize for his remarks, emphasizing their peaceful intent to urge Democrats to support a ceasefire and an end to U.S. funding of violence against Palestinian civilians.
U.S. Capitol Police reported six officers treated for injuries, varying from cuts to pepper spray effects. They also confirmed the arrest of one person for assaulting an officer. The Metropolitan Police Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the specifics of the protest and the use of pepper spray.
The protest aligns with global demonstrations that have emerged since the recent escalation of violence in the Middle East, with significant loss of life reported on both sides. Advocacy groups like Jewish Voice for Peace and the Democratic Socialists of America, in conjunction with IfNotNow, organized the demonstration as part of a broader call for peace and an end to hostilities in Gaza.
The DNC has not commented directly on the protest but stated that they are monitoring the situation closely in coordination with Capitol and local police forces.