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16 Nov, 2023 21:30

Pro-Palestinian protest leads to lockdown at US Capitol

A demonstration outside the Democratic National Committee headquarters in Washington has turned violent
Pro-Palestinian protest leads to lockdown at US Capitol

A protest in Washington – described by one US lawmaker as “pro-terrorist” and “anti-Israel” – has turned violent, prompting a lockdown of congressional offices and evacuations of politicians from the Democratic National Committee (DNC) headquarters.

Demonstrators demanding a ceasefire in the Israel-Hamas war gathered on Wednesday night outside the DNC offices, where lawmakers were holding a meeting, and blocked US Capitol police from getting to the doorway. “We were rescued by armed officers, who did not know the protesters’ intent,” said US Representative Sean Casten, an Illinois Democrat. “They knew only that members of Congress were inside, could not leave, and that protesters would not let police through. Forcing police to guess intent is irresponsible and dangerous.”

Footage of the incident shows protesters clashing with police on the steps of the DNC headquarters. Police said six officers were treated for injuries, but only one protester was arrested for assault. “We appreciate our officers, who kept these illegal and violent protesters back and protected everyone in the area,” the department said in a statement.

Nearby congressional office buildings were locked down, and police later ushered people out of the DNC building. Representative Anna Paulina Luna, a Florida Republican, said she had stopped by her office, located about two blocks from the DNC headquarters, when the alert was issued. 

“No sooner did we get inside, we had heard murmurs of there being a protest, but we hadn’t at that time realized how bad it was. Probably about maybe 10 minutes later, the entire Capitol and all its facilities went on lockdown,” she recalled.

Representative Brad Sherman, a California Democrat, said he was evacuated from the DNC building “after pro-terrorist, anti-Israel protesters grew violent, pepper spraying police officers and attempting to break into the building.” He added, “Apparently, these pro-Hamas demonstrators want Republicans to prevail in the next congressional election.”

A Jewish group called IfNotNow, which opposes US aid to Israel, was among the organizations involved in Wednesday’s protest. The group accused police of initiating the violence. “We are linking arms, threatening no one, and begging our politicians to support an end to the killing and the suffering in Gaza,” the group said.

Democratic Party leaders, who framed the US Capitol riot of January 2021 as a racist “insurrection,” stopped short of condemning the demonstrators involved in Wednesday’s violent protest. The top three congressional Democrats – Representatives Hakeem Jeffries, Katherine Clark, and Pete Aguilar – were attending a meeting at the DNC headquarters when the clash erupted.

The protesters “escalated their activity in a manner that exceeded a peaceful demonstration,” the top-ranking Democrats said in a joint statement. They added, “We strongly support the First Amendment right to freedom of expression and encourage anyone exercising that right to do so peacefully.”