U.S. Capitol Police (USCP) evacuated the area around the Democratic National Committee (DNC) headquarters in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday night responding to a protest that resulted in multiple arrests and injured officers.
An estimated 200 demonstrators gathered outside of the DNC to protest U.S. support for Israel’s war on Hamas in the Gaza Strip. The protest, organized in part by the anti-Israel group If Not Now, called for President Joe Biden to push for a ceasefire between Israel and the terror group.
The protest deteriorated into a riot through the evening. Police warned people away from the area and evacuated bystanders and some top lawmakers away from the DNC after the gathering became violent, according to police.
“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,” USCP said in a statement 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 statement continued.
If Not Now blamed the violence on police, claiming that the gathering was peaceful.
“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,” the group posted.
Police said that six officers were hurt in the riot, with injuries ranging from pepper spray to taking punches. At least one person, 24-year-old Ruben Arthur Camacho, was arrested for assaulting a police officer, according to police.
The riot lasted for over an hour. USCP announced that it had cleared out the area just after 9 p.m. Evacuations during the violent demonstration included some members of Congress who had met at the DNC.
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“Was just evacuated from the #DNC after pro-terrorist, anti-#Israel protestors grew violent, pepper spraying police officers and attempting to break into the building. Thankful to the police officers who stopped them and for helping me and my colleagues get out safely,” Democratic Rep. Brad Sherman of California posted to social media.
Others at the DNC included the top three House Democratic lawmakers: Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, Whip Katherine Clark, and Caucus Chair Pete Aguilar, according to NBC News.
Democratic Rep. Sean Casten of Illinois was also evacuated from the DNC.
“You have the Constitutional right to peaceably assemble and protest. But blocking all entries to a building with multiple members of Congress in it, protected by Capitol Police officers who have lived through January 6 is putting you and other innocent people at risk,” he posted.