Multiple fires are flaring near the White House as a day of peaceful protests against police brutality escalated from tense standoffs with police into rioting and vandalism.
The St. John’s Episcopal Church in Lafayette Square, a historic landmark located just 300 meters from the White House, was targeted by an apparent arson amid the chaos. Footage from the scene showed flames raging inside. The walls of the church have been tagged with graffiti.
DC police were forced to use tear gas to disperse crowds of rioters and make a clear path for firefighter trucks to get to the church.
St. John’s church in DC has been set on fire 🤬
— Mr. Jones™️🇺🇸 (@MrJones_tm) June 1, 2020
The church is among the best-known features of Washington DC and has been attended by every sitting president of the US since it was built over two centuries ago. It remains unclear how badly it was damaged.
The office of the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations in the 16th Street Northwest was targeted by vandals too. Its windows were smashed and fire could be seen inside the lobby.
Small fires were started by rioters across the US capital, with plumes of smoke partially covering the Washington Monument.
The acts of vandalism in Washington come as the nation is enduring mass protests over the death of a black man in police custody. George Floyd was killed after a white officer pinned him to the ground by putting a knee on his neck in front of a camera.
The brutal arrest and death triggered outrage across the county. While many protests remain peaceful, looting and rioting broke out in many US cities over the week.