A large group of protestors entered the Cannon House office building Wednesday demanding an Israeli ceasefire, resulting in several arrests, Capitol Police said.
Three of the protesters were later charged with “Assault on a Police Officer during processing,” U.S. Capitol Police said in a post on X, formerly called Twitter.
“Demonstrations are not allowed inside Congressional Buildings,” Capitol Police said in a post earlier in the day. “We warned the protestors to stop demonstrating and when they did not comply we began arresting them.”
The protest, organized jointly by the Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) and IfNotNow, began at noon in front of the Capitol. Demonstrators urged Congress take action toward a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip.
The Biden administration has largely defended Israel’s retaliatory airstrikes on Gaza, after Hamas militants carried out a massacre of Israeli civilians earlier this month. But progressives in Congress have increased pressure on President Biden to urge restraint from Israel as the death toll in the Gaza Strip mounts.
“The root of violence is oppression, and we’re here to say no in our names,” Jewish Voice for Peace posted on X. “We have the power to stop the ongoing atrocities against Palestinians. We refuse to standby as the Israeli government commits genocide against Palestinians in Gaza.”
Protestors inside the Cannon Rotunda chanted “ceasefire now,” holding banners with the same message.
Capitol Police did not confirm the number of arrests made, but posted on X at 4:04 p.m. that road closures and arrests were ongoing.
Outside of the Capitol, a large crowd gathered to “support those getting arrested on the inside.” The total number of protestors has not been determined, but JVP posted on X that there are 10,000 protestors outside the Capitol building and 500 more “are inside to demand an end to the Israeli and U.S. government’s genocide in Gaza.”
Reps. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) and Cori Bush (D-Mo.), who have been calling on Biden to work toward an immediate ceasefire, spoke to the crowd of demonstrators before they entered the Capitol Building.
“I wish all the Palestinian people would see this. I wish they could see that not all of America want them to die. That they are not disposable, that they have a right to live,” said Tlaib, the only current Palestinian-American member of Congress.
Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.) posted online in support of the protestors. “Solidarity with those mobilizing and demanding a #CeasefireNOW to save lives,” she said on X.
Several protesters criticized Biden’s handling of the conflict as well as his trip to Israel on Wednesday, in which he voiced solidarity with Israel as it responds to the attack by Hamas.
“He is pouring fuel on the fire,” protester Anna Escobar said. “He is giving the weapons that are killing Palestinians.”
“It is extremely unjust for him to be sending more money to an oppressive state like Israel,” another protester, Bina Greenspan, added.
Several Republican lawmakers criticized the message of the protestors.
Rep. Mike Collins (R-Ga.) posted on X in response to the protests: “Got my sign ready. Is the rally in Rayburn of Cannon?” along with a photo of a cardboard sign with “Keep bombing Hamas” written on it.
Hamas, which is recognized as a terrorist group by the U.S. and EU, launched an attack on Israel earlier this month, largely targeting civilians, that killed 1,400 people. Israel has responded to that attack with an aerial assault of Gaza.
Rep. Randy Weber (R-Texas) posted online that his “I stand with Israel” sign posted outside his Cannon office was torn during the protests.
“This is what happens when unrealistic, uneducated people who want to support the killing of innocent Israelis, innocent Jews … they want to come into this Capitol building and wreak havoc and tear down and destroy public property because they don’t have a clue what is going on in the Middle East, they want to blame Israel,” Weber said in his video.
The House Sergeant at Arms issued an alert to members that entry points into the House office buildings were restricted to lawmakers and staff only “due to First Amendment activities on Capitol Grounds.
— Filip Timotija contributed.
Updated at 6:23 p.m.