Wednesday night in Washington, D.C., saw a large-scale demonstration turn violent at the Democratic National Committee (DNC) headquarters, leading to multiple arrests and injuries among law enforcement officers. The U.S. Capitol Police (USCP) were compelled to evacuate the area, including high-profile lawmakers, in response to the escalating situation.
The protest, drawing approximately 200 participants, was initially aimed at opposing U.S. support for Israel in its conflict with Hamas in the Gaza Strip. Organized partly by the group If Not Now, the demonstrators called on President Joe Biden to facilitate a ceasefire in the ongoing hostilities.
However, the event quickly degenerated into a riot by the evening. The USCP took action, evacuating bystanders and legislators from the DNC premises as the protest turned aggressive. The police statement on Thursday morning highlighted the shift from peaceful demonstration to unlawful activity, with protestors obstructing exits, deploying pepper spray against officers, and attempting to dismantle security barriers.
While If Not Now attributed the outbreak of violence to police actions, insisting their protest was non-violent, the USCP reported six officers sustaining injuries ranging from exposure to pepper spray to physical assaults. A 24-year-old individual, Ruben Arthur Camacho, was detained for assaulting a police officer.
The riot, lasting over an hour, concluded with the USCP clearing the area around 9 p.m. The evacuation included several members of Congress who were present at the DNC. Democratic Rep. Brad Sherman of California recounted the incident on social media, expressing gratitude to the officers for their response and safe evacuation.
Among the evacuated were top House Democrats, including Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, Whip Katherine Clark, and Caucus Chair Pete Aguilar, as reported by NBC News. Democratic Rep. Sean Casten of Illinois, also evacuated, emphasized the constitutional right to peaceful protest but criticized the tactics used, citing the risks they posed to everyone present, including the Capitol Police officers.
The incident underscores the ongoing tensions and challenges in managing public demonstrations, especially those linked to international conflicts and U.S. foreign policy.