Police in the nation’s capital responded Wednesday night to a violent pro-Hamas protest outside the headquarters of the Democratic National Committee.
U.S. Capitol Police said about 150 people were “illegally and violently protesting” near the DNC headquarters building in the Capitol Hill neighborhood of Washington. Members of Congress were evacuated from the building as the protest erupted.
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. The videos also show officers shoving protesters. Many of the protesters were wearing black shirts that read “Cease Fire Now.”
Protesters included members of If Not Now and Jewish Voice for Peace, who have organized other demonstrations in Washington.
The clashes Wednesday evening are the latest example of roiling tensions over the war between Israel and Hamas – and violent protests by pro-Palestinian agitators, who stand in stark contrast with the bright, peaceful March for Israel in Washington on Tuesday.
President Joe Biden has been under increasing pressure from the Democratic Party’s left flank over his support for Israel’s military operation, including interruptions from protesters at his speeches. He has resisted calls for a cease-fire, instead saying there should be pauses in the fighting to facilitate the delivery of humanitarian assistance and the potential extraction of hostages.
Last week, a large number of House Democrats joined nearly all Republicans in voting to censure Rep. Rashida Tlaib, the only Palestinian American in Congress, over her criticism of the Israeli government’s treatment of Palestinians. Tlaib, who has family in the West Bank, came under heavy criticism after she failed to immediately condemn Hamas after the attack. She since has called out the terrorist group while also calling for a cease-fire.
The Metropolitan Police Department said its officers also responded to the disturbance. Officials sent an alert to congressional staffers telling them no one would be permitted to enter or exit any House office buildings, but later reopened the entrances.
Rep. Brad Sherman, D-Calif., told The Associated Press that initially about 100 people — House leaders, lawmakers and Democratic candidates running for the House — were at the reception at party headquarters, and speeches were interrupted by the chants outside.
The Capitol police “came in force” and directed lawmakers into a secure room in the basement, he said. By that time, most of the leadership team, including House Democratic leader Hakeem Jeffries, had already left.
About seven lawmakers were huddled in the basement and loaded into police SUVs.
The Capitol Police drove the lawmakers back to the Capitol and took some home, he said.