What happened on November 15?
On November 15, a multi-faith group of nonviolent peace activists led a vigil to mourn the lives of Palestinians and Israelis killed since October 7, followed by a moral act of civil disobedience calling on Democrats to support a ceasefire to save lives, and to end our government’s funding of violence against Palestinian civilians by Netanyahu’s far-right government.
Police brutally attacked these nonviolent anti-war activists who were bringing their messaging for a ceasefire outside of a fundraiser event held by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC). Without any warning or request to disperse, the police rushed members of the interfaith vigil and protest, wielding pepper spray and pellet guns. Police threw protesters down the stairs, sprayed pepper spray, and hit protesters with bikes. They knocked one protester to the ground, dragged them by their hair, and then knocked them back down the steps.
Over 11,200 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli airstrikes and siege since October 7, including over 4,600 children. All with the support of our government. Our members of Congress must take action.
The nonviolent protesters were engaging in moral acts of civil disobedience – ‘good trouble’ as the late Congressman John Lewis would say – in order to engage their members of Congress and make their voices heard as they call for a ceasefire now to save lives.
Was there any violence at the protest?
Police responded to peaceful protesters with overwhelming violence, and without any prior warning or request to disperse.
Protesters were nonviolently engaging in civil disobedience by attempting to block some of the doors to the building while chanting “Ceasefire Now.” Police pepper sprayed indiscriminately, flailed barricades across the space, and threw people down the steps.
As is common, organizers had a designated police liaison present, who asked to speak with officers, but the police refused to speak with them. Instead, police arrived on the scene and immediately ran at protestors, shoving many down the stairs. They then used their bicycles to shove those peacefully assembled in front of the building off the street, and intentionally kicked and walked over the electric tea lights protesters had brought to represent Palestinians killed in recent weeks.
It was the most brutal and violent police response at a ceasefire protest over the past month. DC residents said it was the most brutal response by Capitol Police they had ever seen. One longtime activist and a member of Jewish Voice for Peace, Jeff Ordower, said: “We’ve been doing actions in DC for decades, and have never had police refuse to talk to a police liaison.”
Some members of Congress like Brad Sherman and Marco Rubio have falsely claimed that the protesters were violent and even claimed they are “pro-Hamas.”
Congressman Sherman and Senator Rubio are spreading incredibly dangerous and reckless misinformation about our nonviolent movement – misinformation that could put us all in danger. To smear hundreds of peaceful protesters – many of whom are Jews with Israeli loved ones who were killed on October 7 or are being held hostage right now – as “pro-Hamas” is offensive and dangerous, and the Congressman and Senator should immediately apologize for their remarks. Furthermore, nobody making such claims has shown any evidence to support what they are saying.
Congressman Brad Sherman also lied and said that protesters pepper-sprayed officers.
Protestors did not pepper-spray officers. As video and photos have proven, police repeatedly and indiscriminately pepper-sprayed participants in the nonviolent vigil. Congressman Sherman should be ashamed of himself for spreading such vicious and dangerous misinformation about peaceful protestors and should retract and apologize immediately.
Were there injuries at the protest?
Approximately 90 protestors were injured by violent attacks from the police. One protester suffered a concussion from police. Police kicked, kneed, and punched nonviolent participants in the vigil. Other examples of injuries include:
- A peaceful protester was hit with bicycles by two different officers;
- A peaceful protester was choked and violently handled by 3-4 officers at once, thrown into a brick wall and onto the ground at the top of stairs, then grabbed and picked up and thrown down the stairs;
- A peaceful protester was knocked to the ground, dragged by their hair, and back down the steps;
- A peaceful protester was pepper sprayed directly in the face by the police, then dragged by a leg down the stairs, thrown onto the ground, and shoved through a barricade;
- A peaceful protester was punched in the face and pepper sprayed within 5 minutes of arriving;
- At least two peaceful protesters’ glasses were smashed by the police;
- Multiple peaceful protesters were shoved down the stairs and tackled to the pavement by cops running at full speed.
Police say six officers were treated for injuries – ranging from minor cuts to being pepper sprayed to being punched. One person has been arrested for assault on an officer. What’s your response?
The only people we know of who were violent were the police. Protesters were peacefully engaging in civil disobedience by attempting to block some of the doors to the building and chanting “Ceasefire Now.” All protesters were trained in peaceful civil disobedience and explicitly instructed to engage in non-violence and de-escalation. Police were pepper spraying indiscriminately, and assaulting attendees, and some people at the protest saw police pepper spray another officer accidentally.
Did the police give any warning before reacting violently?
No. Police did not give any warnings or requests to disperse. Organizers had a designated police liaison present, who asked to speak with officers, but the police refused to speak with them.
Police arrived on the scene and immediately ran at protestors, shoving many down the stairs. Then, they used their bicycles to shove those peacefully assembled in front of the building off the street, and intentionally kicked and walked over the electric tea lights protesters had brought to represent Palestinians killed in recent weeks.
Were you trying to enter the building?
No. At no point did anyone try to enter the building. The purpose of the protest was to speak peacefully to members of Congress as they exited the building and share that 80% of Democrats – their base – want to see a ceasefire.
Police assaults on protesters created a scene of terror and chaos. We don’t know why the police responded with such extreme levels of violence. It was the most violent response by police seen at any of the “ceasefire now” protests over the past month. DC residents said it was the most brutal response by Capitol Police they had ever seen.
Why did you block the entrances and doors to the building?
The goal of the protest was to bring the concerns of 80% of Democratic voters to party leadership, who have ignored their base for over a month.
In an act of civil disobedience, we linked arms in front of entrances, but the goal of the protest was for people inside the building to come out and see our peaceful vigil and hear our songs and requests for a ceasefire. We had a team prepared to speak with congress people on their way out, while the rest of us intended to continue singing and praying.
Should we expect more protests like these?
Police violence will not deter us from continuing our peaceful and nonviolent protests. People of all faiths and backgrounds will continue as long as we need in order to pressure our elected officials to take action to save lives. Palestinians in Gaza are being killed by Israeli bombs, and Israeli siege has created and exacerbated conditions of starvation, dehydration, and disease. The US government must call for a ceasefire now and end complicity in Israel’s horrific war crimes. This is where our focus will remain as we continue our peaceful anti war demonstrations.
Photo credit: Ryan Harvey/Rebel Lens