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Rioters on Sunday night rampaged across the nation’s capital, defacing monuments and memorials and setting fire to St. John’s Episcopal Church, known as the church of presidents because of its proximity to the White House.
St. John’s, built in 1816 and located just across Lafayette Square, has been visited by every president from James Madison on. Abe Lincoln prayed in the church shortly before the end of the Civil War.
Fires raged across Washington, D.C., and several other national monuments, including the Lincoln Memorial, were defaced by rioters.
“In the wake of last night’s demonstrations, there are numerous instances of vandalism to sites around the National Mall,” the National Park Service (NPS) for the National Mall said in a tweet on Sunday.
Smoke from multiple fires rising up in front of the Washington Monument #Chopper4 looking south from Maryland, White House center screen. #BreakingNews @nbcwashington #protests2020 #GeorgeFloydProtests pic.twitter.com/WNtPkgYCtD
— Brad Freitas (@Chopper4Brad) June 1, 2020
Fox News later reported that the fire at St. John’s, which began in the parish office of the church, was extinguished by D.C. firefighters.
At the Lincoln Memorial, someone spray-painted “Y’all not tired yet?”
— Tom Dempsey (@KCTomDempsey) May 31, 2020
The World War II Memorial was also defaced, with someone scrawling “Do black vets count?”
The National World War II Memorial was among the landmarks in the nation's capital that were vandalized amid weekend protests. https://t.co/eFe5igg5ur
— Stars and Stripes (@starsandstripes) May 31, 2020
An NPS worker was later seen using a power washer to remove the paint on the war memorial.
Near Lafayette Square, other buildings were also defaced.
On Lafayette Square, near the White House this morning. pic.twitter.com/12PHu8nQuG
— Brendan Carr (@BrendanCarrFCC) May 31, 2020
Near the Washington Monument, a rioter spray-painted “no more black bodies.”
D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser suggests outside professional protesters among those in the city https://t.co/iJpLDYjAue
— The Washington Times (@WashTimes) June 1, 2020
In Richmond, Virginia, the Robert E. Lee statue and Daughters of Confederacy building were also defaced by demonstrators.
— Natalie (@a1iendays) May 31, 2020
Nationwide, protesters demanded justice for George Floyd, a Minneapolis man who died after a police officer arresting him for allegedly passing a counterfeit $20 bill knelt on his neck for more than eight minutes on May 25. Videos shot by bystanders shows white Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin kneeling on Floyd’s neck, even as Floyd repeatedly said he could not breathe. Several other officers are seen nearby, but none took action.
At the White House, exterior lights were turned off late Sunday, with Fox News noting that this was done so Secret Service could use night-vision equipment to monitor protesters.
Lights that usually illuminate exterior of the WH have been turned off. pic.twitter.com/mHfUEhT4Xd
— Mark Knoller (@markknoller) June 1, 2020
In violent clashes, at least 60 Secret Service agents were injured, many by bottles and Molotov cocktails thrown by protesters in Lafayette Park.
Just In: Secret Service says at least 60 of their officers and special agents sustained injuries as a result of this weekend's protest outside the White House.
— Mark Meredith (@markpmeredith) May 31, 2020
A Trump administration official said Sunday that the violence in the protests is being driven by Antifa, an anti-fascist group President Trump declared would soon be designated a “terrorist organization.”
“This is being driven by Antifa,” national security adviser Robert O’Brien told CNN’s “State of the Union” on Sunday. “And they did it in Seattle. They have done it in Portland. They have done it in Berkeley. This is a destructive force of radical — I don’t even know if we want to call them leftists. Whatever they are, they’re — they’re militants who are coming in and burning our cities, and we’re going to get to the bottom of it.”