A fire at the historic St. John’s Church in Washington, D.C., set during escalating protests, has reportedly been extinguished without leaving any significant damage to the structure.
The fire was reportedly set as part of growing demonstrations that spread across the city, the fifth day of nationwide protests following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Events in the nation’s capital had been growing increasingly turbulent, with protesters on Friday pushing down a barricade near the White House and forcing the city to be put on lockdown, with President Donald Trump reportedly being whisked to an underground bunker.
Late on Sunday, reports emerged that protesters had set the historic church on fire. But as Washington Post reporter Michelle Boorstein noted on Twitter, it was soon put out as the fire department was escorted through the protest and to the scene.
“NEW: Fire was in basement of St. Johns, and is out, my @washingtonpost colleague @phscoop reports from DC fire department,” she noted. “Firefighters got there w/ a police escort and quickly put out the blaze. Did NOT appear to cause any significant damage, and it is unclear how it started.”
St. John’s Church is one of the oldest landmarks in the capital region, where a number of presidents attended church services, including Abraham Lincoln. It was not immediately clear if anyone had been injured in the fire, or if police had made any arrests in relation to the blaze being set.
Other reports noted that fires had been set to structures across the area, which is close to the White House.
The calm quickly unraveling in front of W House. pic.twitter.com/Y2HcUhNBZT
— Antonio Olivo (@aolivo) June 1, 2020
As NBC Washington reported, the unrest on Sunday came a day after police struggled to contain the situation on Saturday. A total of 17 people were arrested and 11 D.C. police officers were hurt during Saturday’s protests.
The report added that the White House went quiet on Sunday, with many staffers being told to stay away from the complex if they could.
“Due to ongoing demonstrations, please avoid coming to the White House Complex today if it all possible,” the White House said in an email to staffers.
Many of the protesters have taken aim at Trump, blaming his racially charged rhetoric and controversial statements about protesters. That included his use of the word “thugs” to describe violent protesters, a word that critics say carries racial undertones, and his apparent threat to unleash the U.S. military and authorize them to open fire on looters.