Protest at DNC headquarters

Protesters block the entrance of the headquarters of the Democratic National Committee during a demonstration on November 15, 2023 on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C.

(Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Police Assault Protesters Demanding Gaza Cease-Fire at DNC HQ

"With every passing minute that President Biden and the Democratic Party refuse to heed the calls of their voters and demand a cease-fire, more Palestinians in Gaza are being killed by Israeli airstrikes."

U.S. Capitol Police used pellet guns and pepper spray late Wednesday to break up an interfaith protest calling for a cease-fire in Gaza as top Democratic lawmakers gathered for a candidate event inside the headquarters of the party's national committee.

Organizers of the protest said that shortly after demonstrators locked arms and obstructed the entrance to the Democratic National Committee building, police—including some in riot gear—rushed them without warning and used "brute force" to remove activists from the area.

At least 100 demonstrators were injured during the police response, including one person who was pushed over railing onto their head, Sumaya Awad, a member of the New York City Democratic Socialists of America (NYC-DSA), toldThe Washington Post.

"The Democratic Party just showed exactly how it feels about its voters," Awad said in a statement. "The Israeli military just stormed a hospital in Gaza, airstrikes have killed over 4,500 children, and water is running out. Over 80% of Democratic voters are demanding a cease-fire and brought that message of peace to party leadership, who responded by unleashing an incredibly violent police attack on them."

Jewish Voice for Peace Action and IfNotNow, groups that helped organize the demonstration along with DSA, echoed that account and criticized media outlets for uncritically reporting a Capitol Police statement accusing activists of "violently protesting."

A Semafor reporter who was at the protest refuted claims from some lawmakers—including Democratic Rep. Brad Sherman (Calif.) and Republican Sen. Marco Rubio (Fla.)—that demonstrators tried to "storm" DNC headquarters.

IfNotNow said in a statement that protesters were pepper sprayed, dragged by the hair, hit with police bikes, choked, kicked, punched in the face, and tackled to the pavement.

The Capitol Police wrote in a social media post that six officers "were treated for injuries—ranging from minor cuts to being pepper sprayed to being punched."

Just a small fraction of Congress has called for a cease-fire in the Gaza Strip even as support for a negotiated end to the bloodshed nears 70% among the U.S. public. President Joe Biden has repeatedly dismissed calls for a cease-fire, breaking with an overwhelming majority of Democratic voters and a growing number of lawmakers in his party.

Beth Miller, political director of Jewish Voice for Peace Action, said in a statement late Wednesday that "with every passing minute that President Biden and the Democratic Party refuse to heed the calls of their voters and demand a cease-fire, more Palestinians in Gaza are being killed by Israeli airstrikes and siege."

"Tonight, hundreds of peaceful anti-war activists came to the DNC to call for an end to bombs and violence in order to save Palestinian and Israeli lives. They were met with brutal assaults by the police," Miller added. "The Democrats need to decide: will they stand on the side of peace and justice, or will they continue to support war and genocide?"

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