Anti-Israel protest outside Democratic headquarters turns violent

Six officers received minor injuries and one individual was arrested for assaulting officers, police said

WASHINGTON, DC - NOVEMBER 15: Protesters clash with members of U.S. Capitol Police as they block the entrance of the headquarters of the Democratic National Committee during a demonstration against the war between Israel and Hamas on November 15, 2023 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. Jewish Voice for Peace and If Not Now held a candlelight vigil to call for a ceasefire in the Israel-Hamas war. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

An anti-Israel protest outside the Democratic National Committee headquarters turned violent Wednesday night, with multiple melees between police and demonstrators who attempted to block access to the building.

The demonstration, which prompted a sizable law enforcement response, left six officers with minor injuries, according to Capitol Police, and resulted in one arrest of an individual who allegedly “slam[med]” an officer “into a garage door” and “punch[ed] [a] female officer in the face.” Police said they were also pepper sprayed by demonstrators.

It prompted the evacuation of members of Congress, including all three top House Democratic leaders, from the DNC headquarters, where they had been attending an event.

In a joint statement, Democratic leaders Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY), Katherine Clark (D-MA) and Pete Aguilar (D-CA) and Democratic Congressional Committee Chair Suzan DelBene (D-WA) praised the Capitol Police for their response “when some protesters escalated their activity in a manner that exceeded a peaceful demonstration.” 

“We strongly support the First Amendment right to freedom of expression and encourage anyone exercising that right to do so peacefully,” the statement continued.

“We have handled hundreds of peaceful protests, but last night’s group was not peaceful,” Capitol Police said in a statement. “The crowd failed to obey our lawful orders to move back from the DNC.”

The protest was organized by far-left anti-Israel groups IfNotNow and Jewish Voice for Peace, as well as the Democratic Socialists of America. Organizers said that 90 demonstrators were injured, and claimed that only police employed pepper spray or became violent.

Some demonstrators also berated individuals walking past the DNC headquarters with accusations of genocide.

Rep. Hillary Scholten (D-MI), who was inside DNC headquarters at the time, said in a statement that “demonstrations such as this one — in which police orders to leave private property were ignored, Members of Congress were blocked from exiting, and six police officers were injured — cannot be classified as peaceful” or an exercise of rights to speech and assembly.

Rep. Sean Casten (D-IL) who was also evacuated, said in a message to the protesters, “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.”

“Forcing police to guess intent is irresponsible and dangerous,” Casten continued, adding that he’s “keenly aware it could have been much worse.”

Rep. Brad Sherman (D-CA), who was at the DNC, said in a statement that the “pro-terrorist” protestors had attempted to break into the building, although that was disputed by a journalist on the scene.

House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA) described the demonstrators as “pro-Hamas” and said they “violently attacked the Democratic National Committee headquarters” in a “vile display of anti-Semitism.”

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