Police and ceasefire protesters blame each other for the violent clash outside the Democratic National Committee
A violent clash outside the Democratic National Committee headquarters led to conflicting accounts from police and protesters about exactly what happened.
Hundreds of anti-war protesters gathered outside the Democratic National Committee headquarters in Washington, D.C., near the Capitol, on Wednesday night for what they said was a vigil to demand a ceasefire in Israel’s bombing and military invasion of Gaza as part of its hunt. To Hamas terrorists.
Several Democratic lawmakers inside the building had to be evacuated.
Demonstration organizers said that when they “peacefully blocked” the entrance, they were “violently attacked” by law enforcement.
But US Capitol Police disputed its claims that the protest was peaceful.
“We have dealt with hundreds of peaceful protests, but last night’s group was not peaceful,” US Capitol Police said in a statement Thursday morning. “The crowd failed to comply with our lawful orders to retreat from the Democratic National Committee headquarters, where members of Congress were in the building.”
“When the group moved trash cans in front of exits, pepper-sprayed our officers and attempted to lift the bike rack, our teams quickly provided consequences — pulling people from the building, pushing them back, and evacuating them from the area, so we could safely evacuate members and staff,” police said.
Six officers were injured, and one person was arrested for assault after he slammed an officer “into the garage door” and punched a female officer, the statement said.
“Last night our team was fast, decisive, courageous and in control,” US Capitol Police said. “When demonstrations cross borders and turn into illegal activity, it is our responsibility to maintain order and ensure people’s safety.”
If Not Now Jewish Voice for Peace Action and the Democratic Socialists of America — the groups behind the demonstration — said at a news conference Thursday morning that 90 protesters were injured. Dani Noble of Jewish Voice for Peace, who said she was on the ground at the Democratic National Convention on Wednesday night, said protesters were pepper sprayed and thrown to the sidewalk.
Noble said police “did not provide any warning” before acting, which contradicts a statement by Capitol Police that the crowd failed to obey orders to return.
Many members of Congress denounced the actions of the demonstrators. Republican House Speaker Mike Johnson described what happened as a “despicable display of anti-Semitism.”
House Democratic leaders Hakeem Jeffries, Katherine Clark and Pete Aguilar said the behavior of some protesters “went beyond a peaceful demonstration.” The three lawmakers were at the Democratic National Committee on Wednesday evening for a candidate forum.
“We are grateful for the service and professionalism provided by the U.S. Capitol Police officers who worked to ensure members, staff, and visitors were able to exit safely,” they said in a statement Thursday. “We strongly support the First Amendment right to freedom of expression and encourage anyone exercising this right to do so peacefully.”
Democratic National Committee Chairman Jaime Harrison gave a similar response, saying he was “grateful” for the evacuation of staff and visitors, and that “as Americans we have the right to demonstrate peacefully, but violence is never acceptable.”
Democratic Rep. Brad Sherman of California, a staunch supporter of Israel who was also at the Democratic National Committee when police came to escort them away, spoke with ABC News about the eviction and his thoughts on the protest.
“Why were we holding back? We were right,” Sherman said. “This was our building. We were having our convention. Since when do we let people disrupt the Democratic Party? And who are these people who seem to want to stop us from electing Democratic members of Congress?”
Sherman also said there were “some efforts” to break into the building.
Noble rejected allegations that protesters tried to enter the building by force.
She added: “Certainly, no one has ever tried to enter the building and spread misinformation. On the contrary, it is very dangerous.” “We were there peacefully singing and chanting, waiting for Democratic officials to show up so we could actually participate and get our message out.”
Rabbi Jessica Rosenberg of Jewish Voice for Peace said it was an attempt to get lawmakers to explain why they were not calling for a ceasefire as well.
“Our goal in closing the various entrances was to provide one way for members of Congress and elected officials who come and go so we can talk to them,” Rosenberg said. “We’d been calling their offices every day for months, trying desperately to get meetings, and I’d try to get meetings with my representatives, and they’d often be ignored, often ignored. So we tried to make one way for people to get in and out of the buildings so we could talk.” With them. “So they can see our banners and candles and hear the voices of people demanding a ceasefire.”
Both the Israeli government and the Biden administration have rejected calls for a general ceasefire, but last week Israel agreed to a daily 4-hour humanitarian truce for fighting in Gaza.
ABC News’ Lauren Peeler and Luke Barr contributed to this report.
This article originally appeared on abcnews.go.com