Climate activists clashed with police on Thursday during demonstrations at the Department of the Interior that left security personnel with “multiple injuries,” including one officer who was transported to a nearby hospital, according to department spokeswoman Melissa Schwartz.
According to the Washington Post, the demonstrators stormed the Stewart Lee Udall Main Interior Building on C Street NW. Dozens of people entered the building, while demonstrators left outside fought with law enforcement as they attempted to keep one of the unlocked doors open.
Protesters also tried pushing past the police, echoing the chaotic protests that took place at the United States Capitol on January 6.
Washington Post journalist Ellie Silverman shared footage of the aggressive demonstration on Twitter.
The climate demonstrators wanted to speak with Interior Secretary Deb Haaland, who was traveling at the time, Schwartz noted.
“Multiple injuries were sustained by security personnel, and one officer has been transported to a nearby hospital,” Schwartz said in a statement on Twitter. “Medics representing both the Department and the protesters were present. Secretary Haaland is traveling and not in Washington, D.C.”
“Interior Department leadership believes strongly in respecting and upholding the right to free speech and peaceful protest,” Schwartz continued. “It is also our obligation to keep everyone safe. We will continue to do everything we can to de-escalate the situation while honoring first amendment rights.”
Twitter user Jennifer Falcon tweeted that there were over fifty “natives and allies” in the building at one point.
The Post reported that the protesters were part of a week-long series of demonstrations dubbed People vs. Fossil Fuels, which was organized by a coalition of groups known as Build Back Fossil Free.
People vs. Fossil Fuels said in a statement that more than 50 people were arrested during the attempting occupation of the Interior building.
“Frontline Indigenous leaders from various fossil fuel fights from across Turtle Island occupied the Bureau of Indian Affairs in Washington D.C. for the first time since the 1970’s on Thursday with a list of demands for President Biden,” the group stated.
“Police acted aggressively with the water protectors and Indigenous leaders, tasing at least two people and hitting others with batons,” it continued. “An independent Indigenous media person was assaulted by the police and had his equipment broken. 55 people were arrested and taken away to DC Metro police stations.”
Fox News reported that the Federal Protective Service said in a statement that the agency is “committed to the safety of demonstrators participating in lawful protests and fully supports the peaceful expression of all people.”
FPS also praised the U.S. Park Police and Washington Metropolitan Police Department who helped “to detain, prosecute or take action against anyone who caused harm and attempted to disrupt the business of the federal government yesterday.”