Organizers of the protest outside the Democratic National Committee (DNC) headquarters Wednesday night said 90 of its demonstrators were injured after skirmishes broke out with police.
Members of the Ceasefire Now Coalition said hundreds of people attended a candlelight vigil outside the DNC building in Washington to demand a cease-fire in the Israel-Hamas war and to pray for those taken hostage by the Hamas militants and for all who have died in both sides of the conflict.
Capitol Police said they responded to the demonstration to evacuate lawmakers from the building and said the group gathered was “illegally and violently protesting” protesters.
Speaking at a press conference Thursday, organizers accused the police of forcefully shoving the protesters down the steps, pepper-spraying them and choking one of their members without warning. They said at least one person was being treated for a concussion.
Rabbi Jessica Rosenberg, who was at the headquarters Wednesday night, said her congregants “are devastated this morning,” not only from the lives lost in the Israel-Hamas war, but now because of the “violence from the police.”
“We were there lighting candles for all who have died, honoring the lives lost, to call for a cease-fire to honor those lives in prayer and in song. And instead, instead of being able to actually talk to our elected officials and pray with them and sing with them and ask them for a cease-fire, the police shoved our people down the steps,” Rosenberg said at the press conference.
Those in attendance included members from Jewish Voice for Peace Action. Dani Nobles, a member who was at Wednesday’s protest, said she does not know how the situation escalated so quickly outside the DNC.
“I mean, from my personal perspective, I don’t know, like we were doing — we were engaging in civil disobedience,” Nobles said when asked about why the situation escalated. “I’ve been at many protests this month, where we’ve engaged in like, nonviolent tactics of civil disobedience. And I personally have never seen such a like fast and violent escalation by police with no warning.”
Nobles said attendees wanted to engage with lawmakers to discuss a cease-fire in Gaza. She also accused lawmakers and Capitol Police of spreading misinformation about what happened at the incident.
“And absolutely, in no instance did anyone try to enter the building, and spreading misinformation to the contrary is extremely, extremely dangerous. We were there peacefully singing and chanting, waiting for Democratic officials to show up so that we could actually engage,” she said.
Capitol Police, organizers and lawmakers have provided conflicting information about what happened Wednesday night. Organizers disputed claims from lawmakers and Capitol Police that protesters used pepper spray on officers and blocked entrances to the building.
On Thursday morning, Capitol Police released an updated statement about the incident, saying approximately 200 people gathered “failed to obey” the orders to move them back from the DNC. Organizers said no such order was given.
“We have handled hundreds of peaceful protests, but last night’s group was not peaceful. The crowd failed to obey our lawful orders to move back from the DNC, where Members of Congress were in the building,” Capitol Police said in a statement.
Capitol Police claimed the group moved dumpsters in front of the building and used pepper spray on officers — which the organizers denied seeing anyone do. Capitol Police said its officers “quickly introduced consequences” afterward, which included “pulling people off the building, pushing them back, and clearing them from the area.”
Capitol Police said six officers were injured from minor cuts, being pepper-sprayed and being punched.
Police said they arrested 24-year-old Ruben Arthur Camacho of Woodbridge, N.Y., for assault on an officer after others witnessed him “slam another officer into a garage door and then punch the female officer in the face.”
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