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A senior official in the direct chain of command for defending Washington D.C. told Fox News that more than 50 Secret Service officers have been injured Sunday night so far, and that some rioters are throwing bottles and Molotov cocktails.
As observed in New York City and elsewhere, groups in D.C. are planting cars filled with incendiary materials for future use, Fox News is told.
U.S. Marshals and Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agents have been deployed to the streets of D.C. in an extraordinary move to beef up security alongside the National Guard, local police, and Homeland Security agents, including the Secret Service, the Justice Department confirmed late Sunday.
As authorities clashed with demonstrators for the third straight night, the parish house connected to the historic St. John’s Episcopal Church across the street from the White House was also set on fire late Sunday. The parish house contains offices and parlors for gatherings. The basement, which was also on fire, is used for childcare during church services, and had recently undergone renovations.
Before the blaze, church officials had said they were thankful that the previous day of protests hadn’t significantly damaged the structure.
“We are fortunate that the damage to the buildings is limited,” Rev. Rob Fisher, the rector of the church, said in a statement earlier Sunday, several hours before the fire was set. “There is some exterior graffiti, and the protective glass over one of the more modern stained-glass windows on the north side of the narthex has been broken (the stained glass itself is unharmed). Thankfully, there is no damage inside either of the buildings. This morning we secured, as best we could, our most valuable items.”
The American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) building was also set ablaze near the White House. The AFL-CIO is one of the nation’s largest pro-union groups.
An hour before the 11 p.m. ET curfew in D.C., police fired a major barrage of tear gas stun grenades into the crowd of more than 1,000 people, largely clearing Lafayette Park across the street from the White House and scattering protesters into the street.
Protesters piled up road signs and plastic barriers and lit a raging fire in the middle of H Street. Some pulled an American flag from a nearby building and threw it into the blaze. Others added branches pulled from trees. A cinder block structure, on the north side of the park, that had bathrooms and a maintenance office, was engulfed in flames.
Several miles north, a separate protest broke out in Northwest D.C., near the Maryland border. The Metropolitan Police Department says there were break-ins at a Target and a shopping center that houses Neiman Marcus, Saks Fifth Avenue Men’s Store, T.J. Maxx, a movie theater and specialty stores. Police say several individuals have been detained.
Separately on Sunday, Twitter suspended the account of Antifa, the left-wing group that Trump branded a terrorist organization earlier in the day. The suspension came after Antifa urged members to go into “white hoods” and “take what’s ours.” Twitter and President Trump have sparred in recent days over censorship.
The developments came as it emerged that the Secret Service took President Trump to the White House’s underground bunker when protests over the in-custody death of George Floyd intensified Friday night outside the complex. A senior administration official confirmed the information to Fox News after The New York Times first reported the story.
Antifa is burning down the historic St. John's Church by the White House. It's completely up in flames. pic.twitter.com/VI0A2PAVBV
— Ian Miles Cheong (@stillgray) June 1, 2020
“Wasn’t long. But he went,” the official said Sunday.
The White House declined to comment.
“The White House does not comment on security protocols and decisions,” White House spokesman Judd Deere said.
Trump’s precise position Sunday night was not immediately clear.
Around the time Trump headed to the safety Friday night, multiple agents were being “assaulted with bricks, rocks, bottles, fireworks and other items” — injuring a number of uniformed division officers and special agents, according to the Secret Service. The extent of the injuries was unclear. No one reportedly made it over the White House fence, but the agency determined that the situation warranted immediate action.
Outside of the White House, protesters stand feet away from a police line chanting, “George Floyd. Say his name.” pic.twitter.com/clMAEeAuSh
— Yamiche Alcindor (@Yamiche) June 1, 2020
Trump has said he had “watched every move” from inside the executive mansion during Friday’s protest and “couldn’t have felt more safe” as the Secret Service let the protesters carry on, “but whenever someone … got too frisky or out of line, they would quickly come down on then, hard — didn’t know what hit them.”
On Saturday morning, Trump praised the Secret Service for its protection of the White House the previous night, calling them “very cool & very professional” — and warned that any protesters who breached the fence would have met by “vicious dogs” and “ominous weapons.”
“The President doesn’t make the call to move to the bunker,” Dan Bongino, a former lead Secret Service agent in the presidential protective detail and a Fox News contributor, wrote on Sunday. “The trained professionals of the Secret Service do.”
While unusual, it isn’t unprecedented for protectees to be taken to the underground bunker when there are aerial intrusions or other threats to the White House. Top White House officials, including then-Vice President Dick Cheney, were whisked to the bunker after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.
The mob outside the White House had also turned its rage on a Fox News crew early Saturday, chasing and pummeling the journalists in a harrowing scene captured on video.
Veteran reporter Leland Vittert was covering protests in Lafayette Park just before1 a.m. with three crewmembers when as many as a dozen masked protesters surrounded them, in footage caught by the Daily Caller.
After a protester lunged at Vittert while he was reporting on-air, the team made a beeline out of the park, with the hostile and growing crowd in pursuit.
Vittert and the crew were punched and hit with projectiles as they fled, and a Fox News camera was broken when a member of the mob tried to grab it.