Buildings near the White House were set ablaze Sunday night during the third day in a row of protests in Washington D.C. over the death of George Floyd.
Police said a fire was set in the basement of the historic St. John’s Episcopal Church as some protesters began to clash with police. Part of the building was vandalized and graffiti reading, “The Devil is across [the] street,” was painted on the church. The blaze was later extinguished and authorities said it didn’t appear to do much damage.
“I guess God was on its side,” Vito Maggiolo, a spokesman for the Washington D.C. Fire Department, told The Washington Post.
Next door, the headquarters of the AFL-CIO, the nation’s largest federation of unions, was vandalized and a fire set in the building’s lobby. One reporter said the lobby appeared “engulfed” and that it was “filled with smoke” after the windows were broken and graffiti spray-painted across the exterior.
Another structure near Lafayette Square was also on fire and other blazes were set in the area, fire officials said.
As the protests continued, exterior lights surrounding the White House were shut off, plunging the grounds in darkness. Police gathered outside fired tear gas toward demonstrators as an 11 p.m. curfew set in, with some protesters throwing water bottles toward officers or setting off fireworks as the night went on.
Aerial footage showed smoke rising over the city with the Washington Monument shrouded in haze.
A spokesperson for the Justice Department said later Sunday agents with the U.S. Marshals and the Drug Enforcement Administration had been deployed throughout the city to bolster police.
The demonstrations add to a growing chorus of rage around the country over the death of Floyd, a Black man in Minneapolis who died after a white police officer knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes. The officer has since been arrested and charged with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter.
But the charges have done little to assuage growing crowds who have largely protested peacefully around the U.S. even as police have used aggressive tactics.
President Donald Trump has not made many public appeals to angry protesters this weekend, instead wielding his Twitter account to attack Democrats and castigate demonstrators as “thugs” and “anarchists.” On Friday night, the Secret Service rushed him to a secure bunker beneath the White House that has been used during terrorist attacks, according to reports from The New York Times and Associated Press.