Protesters from anti-Israel activist groups fought with police Wednesday night as they surrounded the Washington, D.C., headquarters of the Democratic National Committee.
"Last night approximately 200 people gathered in front of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) headquarters to protest the conflict in the Middle East," Capitol Police said in a statement Thursday morning. "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."
Police evacuated lawmakers, including House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (N.Y.) and other top Democrats in Congress. Protesters, led by Jewish Voice for Peace, IfNotNow, and the Democratic Socialists of America, allegedly attempted to block the exits as they demonstrated in favor of a ceasefire in Israel's war against Hamas.
Protest organizer Dani Noble told the Associated Press that the demonstrators were "nonviolent protesters," saying that it was "shameful" that they "were met with violence tonight." Noble said police began "pulling on folks that are disabled or have chronic illnesses, pulling people to the ground." But Capitol Police said they responded with force to violent protesters who assaulted officers.
"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," police said in their Thursday statement.
Six officers suffered injuries, ranging from minor cuts to "being pepper sprayed to being punched," according to the statement. Police arrested a 24-year-old man whom they accused of slamming an officer into a garage door and punching her in the face.
This is not the first time pro-Palestinian protesters have allegedly engaged in illegal activity. Attendees vandalized the White House gate with red paint at a protest earlier this month.