Around 50 protesters arrested over protest in Senate building which shut down cafeteria

More than 50 anti-Israel protesters were arrested after storming through a Senate office building, causing the cafeteria to be briefly shut down.

Footage posted to social media on Tuesday showed the demonstration, in which dozens of protesters were seen chanting “Senate can’t eat until Gaza eats!”

Later protesters were seen unfurling a large purple banner which read “Christians for a Free Palestine”. Another read “Break bread not bodies.”

Campaign group Christians for a Free Palestine took credit for orchestrating the demonstration alongside CodePink, a self-described grassroots feminist organisation which has previously caused disruptions at congressional hearings.

The groups were pushing for Congress to back a ceasefire, restore aid to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), and to end military aid to Israel.

The protest took place at around 12.30pm ET inside the Dirksen Senate Office Building. Other footage later showed demonstrators being led away by police officers in handcuffs.

“Approximately 50 people were arrested for illegally demonstrating inside the Dirksen Senate Office Building this afternoon. It is illegal to demonstrate inside any of the Congressional Buildings,” the Capitol Police said in a statement shared with The Independent.

Christians for a Free Palestine later shared on social media that all those arrested had been freed – estimating that roughly 55 activists, including around 30 ordained clergy members, had been detained.

“Over 50 Christian leaders from across the US nonviolently blockaded the Senate Cafeteria to pressure the Senate and their staffers to support a permanent ceasefire in Gaza, restore aid to UNRWA, and end military funding to Israel,” the organisation told the Washington Post.

“They announced that they would not leave or let anyone get food in the Senate Cafeteria until nourishing food is sent to Gaza and the U.S. stops funding the bombs that have killed over 33,000 Palestinians.”

The Independent has reached out to Capitol Police for further information on the incident.

The demonstration comes as Joe Biden said that Benjamin Netanyahu’s approach to the war in Gaza has been a “mistake”, in one of his strongest rebukes of the Israeli prime minister’s response to the ongoing conflict so far.

The president made the remarks during a sit-down interview with Univision, aired on Tuesday evening, in which he said the recent missile strikes on aid convoys in the Middle East were “outrageous” and called for a halt in the fighting.

“I don’t agree with his approach,” he said, adding: “I think it’s outrageous that those four, three vehicles were hit by drones and taken out on a highway where it wasn’t like it was along the shore, it wasn’t like there was a convoy moving there.”