They carried posters declaring, “Trump is guilty” and “GOP coverup.”
Some offered gratitude to the lone Republican — Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah — who defied his party to vote to convict Trump on a charge of abuse of power alongside Senate Democrats, waving signs that said, “Thank you, Senator Romney.”
The protest, one of hundreds across the country on Wednesday dubbed “Reject the Coverup,” was meant to showcase Americans’ disapproval of the Senate’s decision to acquit the president without calling for witnesses to testify at his trial.
Organizers and speakers tried to focus on the future, the 2020 presidential election and upcoming Senate races.
“Today is a sad day, a devastating day,” Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.) told the crowd. “But we will recover, we will rebuild . . . We the people are powerful.”
Protesters shouted their agreement.
“Vote them out!” the crowd chanted. “Trump, Pence out now!”
It was one of several demonstrations in the District organized in response to the Senate’s vote to acquit Trump on charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.
Trump was impeached by the House after an investigation into allegations that he withheld military aid and a White House meeting to pressure Ukraine to investigate his political rivals, including former vice president Joe Biden and his son Hunter.
“While this is the conclusion of one particular process, this is also a moment where President Trump was, for one of the few times in his life, held accountable for his actions,” said Jesse Littlewood, vice president of campaigns at Common Cause and an organizer of the evening demonstration.
Several hours earlier, tourists in the U.S. Capitol Rotunda on Wednesday stopped taking pictures of the busts and paintings on the ornate sandstone walls to take in another sight: 10 women who locked arms and demanded that senators vote to remove Trump from office.
The group, which broke off from an early-afternoon tour of the building, sat beneath the dome as a tour guide in a red jacket tried to draw visitors’ attention to the bronze and marble statues of famous Americans and former presidents.
“Trump is guilty,” the women’s chants echoed through the hall as about two dozen supporters — wearing black shirts with messages such as “Trump leads a mob of thugs” and “Remove Trump” — raised their fists in solidarity.
Bright flashes and the sound of camera shutters bounced off the walls as other tour groups were briefly caught in the commotion: Capitol Police officers encircling the demonstration as the women shouted in unison, “Acquittal is a coverup.”
“Thank you,” said one woman from Minnesota. Others shook their heads in silence.
The 10 women were charged with obstructing and incommoding the Rotunda walkway, a misdemeanor. It is illegal to protest in the building.
“I think the president is a danger to democracy and a danger to America, and I wanted to give one last plea to Republican senators before the vote to honor their oath,” said Jennifer Fisher, 60, who was arrested Wednesday. Fisher, who came from New York for the demonstration, said she had never been arrested.
“It just feels like the Ministry of Magic has been taken over by the followers of Voldemort,” she said. “I felt like I had to be here, to say something.”
The 10 women were released by D.C. police within hours. Many went straight back to the Capitol to stand in protest on the East Lawn.
Littlewood said having hundreds of people standing outside Congress moments after the impeachment vote will send a symbolic message to legislators about the disappointment many Americans feel.
“This is our opportunity to say we’re not going to let Trump run roughshod over our democratic process, that even if the GOP gives [him] a pass, we’re not going to,” he said.
While protests on the Capitol lawn are a common occurrence, demonstrations in the middle of a tour happen less often, U.S. Capitol Visitor Center officials said.
“The American public is passionate about the issues they care about and the Capitol is where people come to express themselves,” said spokeswoman Laura Trivers. “We’re always prepared.”
Several demonstrators were overcome with emotion at the symbolism of standing in the Rotunda shortly before the vote.
Deborah Martin, 56, of Falls Church, began to cry as chants of “honor your oath” filled the room.
“Seeing the women’s suffrage statue and then watching this group of brave women doing the very thing that has gotten us all to where we are today,” Martin said. “It was just overwhelming to be in the middle of that.”