Several House Democratic lawmakers, including party leadership, had been present for an event at the building and were evacuated.
The Hill’s police force has been on edge after recent assaults against lawmakers, with law enforcement particularly sensitive about keeping entrances open to buildings in the aftermath of the Jan. 6 riot. The Washington D.C. police assisted in responding to the protests but referred all questions to the Capitol Police.
Rep. Sean Casten (D-Ill.) said on X, formerly known as Twitter, that blocking the entrances put protesters and others at risk. He was one of the lawmakers present at the fundraiser.
“We were rescued by armed officers who did not know the protestors’ intent; they knew only that Members of Congress were inside, could not leave and that protestors would not let police through. Forcing police to guess intent is irresponsible and dangerous,” he said.
House Democratic leadership, in a joint statement from Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, Whip Katherine Clark (D-Mass.), Caucus Chair Pete Aguilar (D-Calif.), and DCCC Chair Suzan DelBene (D-Wash.), said “some protesters escalated their activity in a manner that exceeded a peaceful demonstration,” and thanked police for their “service and professionalism” in helping people leave the building.
“We strongly support the First Amendment right to freedom of expression and encourage anyone exercising that right to do so peacefully,” they said.
House office buildings were placed on lockdown during the incident. In a message posted on XSen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) faulted “these pro-Hamas insurrectionists” for the disruptions and called on the Biden administration to treat the incident the same as it did “January 6 cases.”
Speaker Mike Johnsonin a statement Thursday, condemned what he called “this vile display of anti-Semitism.” Other Republicans, including Florida Reps. Cat Cammack and Anna Paulina Lunasaid they were placed on lockdown due to the protests.
“I’m with my baby at my office and the Capitol offices just went into lockdown because of these clowns,” Luna wrote. “Nut jobs.”
Eva Borgwardt, a spokesperson for IfNotNow, one of the groups involved in the protest, disputed police and lawmaker claims of a violent protest and called on lawmakers to “apologize and retract their dangerous and hurtful statements.”
“As protesters engaged in a moral act of nonviolent civil disobedience outside of the building, police charged at protesters and attacked them without giving any warning or order to disperse. The police pepper sprayed us, pulling them by their hair, and throwing them down stairs, resulting in over 90 injuries to protesters,” Borgwardt said.
The protests came just a few years after a still-unknown suspect placed a pipe bomb outside both the DNC and Republican National Committee prior to the events of Jan. 6, 2021.