On Wednesday night, the U.S. Capitol Police Department violently dispersed hundreds of protesters who were gathered outside of the Democratic National Committee’s (DNC) office to demand that Congress call for a ceasefire in Israel’s genocidal military campaign against Palestinians in Gaza.
Several organizations, including Jewish Voice for Peace, IfNotNow, members of the Democratic Socialists of America, and others, held a peaceful vigil outside of the DNC’s entrances at 7 p.m. Eastern time on Wednesday. Protesters lit over 11,200 candles to represent the number of Palestinians in Gaza who Israeli forces have killed so far, and joined arms to create a human chain across the building’s main entrance, blocking entry and exit of a fundraiser event for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC).
Capitol Police arrived at the scene soon after the demonstration began, pulling apart the human chain and engaging in direct physical altercations with the protesters. According to organizers who were at the event, police took action immediately and refused to acknowledge liaisons of the protest groups, violating longstanding norms of most peaceful demonstrations.
“Police refused to speak with our police liaisons…and proceeded to violently pull our people and throw them down the stairs,” JVP member Dani Noble said in a press conference about the event on Thursday morning.
“The police shoved our people down the steps,” Rabbi Jessica Rosenberg said at the same press conference, noting that police gave one member of her congregation a concussion.
Sumaya Awad, a member of the New York City chapter of Democratic Socialists of America (DSA), said police gave no warning before trying to disperse protesters using “brute force.”
Video of the attack shared by police on social media showcases police using pepper spray against protesters in addition to physically attacking them. Police injured around 90 protesters, organizers of the event said.
“Wielding pepper spray and pellet guns, the police rushed members of the interfaith vigil without warning, where some activists had blocked some of the doors of the Democratic DCCC’s candidate event, asking politicians to call for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza,” a press release from Jewish Voice for Peace read.
About six police officers suffered injuries, according to Capitol Police. Officers also alleged that pepper spray was used against them — a highly dubious claim that was disputed by both organizers of the protest and journalists covering the event.
“I was outside the building and saw a USCP officer spray protesters, not vice versa,” Semafor’s David Weigel said.
At least one Democratic lawmaker took to social media to spread disinformation about the protest.
Congressman Brad Sherman (D-California), who was inside the building when the demonstration began, said he and others were evacuated with the help of police. In a post on X, he parroted the baseless claims that protesters were “pro-terrorist” and that they had attacked police officers and tried to force their way into the building. In subsequent posts, he cynically described the demonstrators as “pro-Hamas.”
Sherman’s depiction of the protesters disregards that in addition to an Israeli ceasefire, the organizations are demanding that the U.S. facilitate a hostage exchange between Israel and Hamas.
Organizers blasted Sherman’s characterization of the events and demanded that he apologize and retract his statement.
“This is dangerous & reckless disinformation, Congressman,” the X account for IfNotNow wrote, quoting his post. “We were peacefully linking arms, singing, and calling for a ceasefire, as you can see with your own eyes in this video. Then Capitol Police rushed in, threw us down the stairs, and pepper sprayed us. Retract this now.”
Others observing the event also condemned Sherman’s statements.
“Apparently, mourning innocent Palestinian lives that have been lost gets you labeled as “pro-terrorist” by certain Democrats now,” wrote Nina Turner, senior fellow at The New School’s Institute on Race, Power and Political Economy. “Shameful and wildly Islamophobic.”
Lawmakers like Sherman and the Capitol Police are “spreading extremely dangerous and reckless misinformation…to smear hundreds of peaceful protesters,” Eva Borgwardt, national spokesperson for IfNotNow, said during the Thursday morning press conference. “The only people that I saw use violence at that protest were the police.”
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