Law enforcement clashed with protesters calling for a ceasefire in the Israel-Hamas war outside of the Washington headquarters of the Democratic National Committee Wednesday night after authorities said the demonstration turned violent and lawmakers were evacuated from the building.
“Tonight 6 officers were treated for injuries – ranging from minor cuts to being pepper sprayed to being punched. One person has been arrested for assault on an officer. We appreciate our officers who kept these illegal & violent protesters back & protected everyone in the area,” US Capitol Police, who responded with DC Metropolitan Police, said in a statement on X.
Officers, according to USCP, had worked “to keep back approximately 150 people who are illegally and violently protesting” in the area – a characterization activist groups later disputed – and escorted members of Congress from the area. Top House Democrats were among those evacuated.
According to a person familiar with the matter, the Democratic leaders — House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, House Minority Whip Katherine Clark and Pete Aguilar, the No. 3 Democrat — were inside as the clash between protesters and police erupted.
About 10 members were there, according to the source, including Suzan DelBene, the chairwoman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, and Michigan Rep. Debbie Dingell. The members had been meeting with House candidates who were in town for training sessions and to connect with fellow Democrats.
California Rep. Brad Sherman told CNN’s Abby Philip on “NewsNight” that he was among the members evacuated to the Capitol and slammed protesters for “their willingness to attack police.”
“The one point I want to make is, yesterday, there were 200,000 pro-Israel demonstrators, with a permit, entirely peaceful,” Sherman said. “And, here, you have a demonstration, less than 1000th as large, that’s also getting publicity and it’s getting publicity because their willingness to attack police – as they did with pepper spray – is a force multiplier.”
A DNC spokesperson told CNN they were monitoring the situation and had been in touch with Capitol Police and DC Police.
Earlier, a group organized by Jewish Voice for Peace Action, IfNotNow Movement, and Democratic Socialists of America held a candlelight vigil near Capitol Hill, asking Congress to call for ceasefire.
Beth Miller, political director of Jewish Voice for Peace Action, said in a statement Wednesday night that “hundreds of peaceful anti-war activists came to the DNC to call for an end to bombs and violence in order to save Palestinian and Israeli lives.”
“They were met with brutal assaults by the police,” Miller continued. “The Democrats need to decide: will they stand on the side of peace and justice, or will they continue to support war and genocide?”
Eva Borgwardt, IfNotNow’s national spokesperson, said in the statement that “instead of heeding our call for a ceasefire, police violently attacked nonviolent protesters with pepper spray.”
As the gathering outside of the DNC turned tense Wednesday night, with protesters face-to-face with law enforcement, a CNN crew on the scene reported police setting up a barricade around the building.
Just after 9 p.m. ET, Capitol Police sent out an alert saying they had sealed all House office buildings and exits. “All House buildings: Significant demonstration activity, no entry or exit is permitted at this time. You may move throughout the buildings,” it said.
Most members and their staff had already left the House buildings, as the chamber took its last votes before the Thanksgiving recess earlier in the day.
Rep. Sean Casten of Illinois said on social media that he was one of the members of Congress evacuated during the protest, writing that he was “grateful to Capitol Police for getting all members and staff out safely.”
“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 added.
CNN’s Manu Raju and Kaanita Iyer contributed to this report.