WASHINGTON - Questions have been swirling online a day after pro-Palestinian demonstrators were able to storm into a Congressional office building.
Wednesday afternoon, hundreds crowded into the rotunda of the Cannon House Building, which holds several House Committee and congressional offices. It was the largest protest the Capitol has seen since the insurrection on Jan. 6.
U.S. Capitol Police quickly put out an alert about the growing demonstration, which had started on the National Mall around noon before moving to the Capitol complex. Police worked for hours to clear the crowd that had grown inside the Cannon building and arrested 308 people in total.
The detained protesters were lined up outside the building and shuttled to a temporary holding area in the Capitol complex. Of the arrests, 305 were charged with illegally protesting inside a House Office Building. Three were charged with assault on a law enforcement officer.
Right now, the question for many is: How did protestors get inside a Capitol building in a post-January 6 world?
Was the Capitol stormed on Oct. 18?
Despite a flood of social media speculation and theories, the short answer is: no. After speaking with U.S. Capitol Police, FOX 5 has learned that the answer is both quite ordinary and — given that officers were assaulted — eye-opening.
A USCP spokesperson told FOX 5 that the group Jewish Voices for Peace walked through the Cannon House building doors and went through the usual security checks.
In a statement to FOX 5 U.S. Capitol Police said, "the protestors legally entered the building, even standing in a looser form of a single file line at the public entrance. Everyone was screened normally during this process."
It wasn’t until after they were in the building, held up signs, sang and yelled that police told them they were breaking the law and the arrests began.
"Demonstrations are not allowed inside Congressional Buildings," USCP wrote on X Wednesday. So they began clearing the rotunda, one by one until only a few remained. All those who had to be taken out by force were ticketed.
Is the Capitol secure?
One U.S. senator says the expects officials to reexamine security protocol on Capitol Hill.
Virginia U.S. Senator Tim Kaine tells FOX 5 that one of his hearings was interrupted three times yesterday by protestors and that a security assessment is now likely.
"They might have been loud, they might have been chanting, but there were some who were not and there were some who were charged with crimes because they weren’t being peaceful," Kaine said.
Jeff James, a retired U.S. Secret Service agent tells FOX 5 that law enforcement in D.C. needs to be on guard especially now with an elevated threat concern given Israel’s war against the terror group Hamas.
"Your right to peacefully assemble and to demonstrate doesn’t give you the right to breach federal property or private property and things like that it’s why we’re seeing people getting arrested and law enforcement needs to do that. They need to set that perimeter," James said.
He says protests like this can present dangers to police and the protesters themselves.
"You never know what somebody might sneak into that protest. It might be weapons, it might be explosives," James said. "Even somebody who can secrete themselves into that protest who’s counter to what they believe who’s there just to do damage."
Lone wolf attacks are a big concern of security officials. Capitol police say they are constantly on guard for that but asked about the spectacle that played out on Wednesday, one official told FOX 5. "To the protestors, this was theater, but to us…this is everyday reality."