Demonstrators Cause Mayhem Near Pelosi’s Office

Posted November 5, 2009 at 2:35pm

Updated: 4:26 p.m.

Pandemonium broke out around 2 p.m. Thursday in the Cannon House Office Building, much of it taking place outside Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s (D-Calif.) office.

The Capitol Police forcibly removed at least seven people from the second-floor hallway after repeated warnings to clear the area. Removed demonstrators had started ripping up pages of the health care reform bill, chanting, “We won’t pay for murder,— in an apparent reference to controversy over abortion funding.

One protester who appeared to be a Catholic priest lay defiantly on the floor, before finally being dragged away by police officers.

Capitol Police spokeswoman Sgt. Kimberly Schneider said that police today arrested 12 demonstrators in Cannon, including four who were charged with unlawful entry into Pelosi’s office, six who were charged with unlawful conduct in the hallway outside Pelosi’s office, and two charged with disorderly conduct outside the office.

By midafternoon, more than 150 demonstrators and members of the press were gathered in the small corridor, impeding much of the pedestrian traffic on the second floor of Cannon.

The anti-health-care demonstrators were opposed by a handful of counterprotesters from the liberal anti-war group CodePink — a group who earlier Thursday staged a sit-in outside Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman’s (ID) office.

Another incident occurred just outside the Cannon office of Congressman Gerry Connolly (D-Va.). A constituent, who refused to give her name, reported that when she tapped Connolly on the shoulder, he threatened to have her arrested. The constituent was not arrested, but Capitol Police arrived on the scene.

“Gerry Connolly was walking out of the office. This young lady tapped him on the shoulder and asked, ‘How are you going to vote on the health care bill,’— her companion, who also declined to be named, reported. “[Connolly] said, ‘It’s a felony to touch a Congressman,’ and then we went to get a Capitol Police officer,— a bystander said.

George Burke, Connolly’s communications director, said, “99.9 percent of the folks who have come to visit us have been extraordinarily polite. … It gets a little unruly when a Congressman gets swarmed.—

The demonstrations in Cannon took place in the aftermath of a well-attended anti-health-care rally on the West Front of the Capitol. Called “House Call,— attendees were urged to visit their Members’ offices to make their opinions known on the health care bill.