Chaos has come to the steps of the White House with reports the US President has been forced into an underground bunker while nearby protesters set the capital alight.
The National Guard was deployed in Washington DC Sunday night, local time, as darkness fell in major cities still reeling from nights of violence and destruction that began with peaceful protests over the death of a African American man, George Floyd, at the hands of police.
Some protesters were peaceful and were pictured raising their arms in a sign of solidarity.
“No justice, no peace” and “George Floyd! Say his name” were just some of the chants the group yelled as they marched on the White House, where they were met with a line of heavily armed police.
The protest grew more heated at about 11pm, local time, as police sporadically enforced a curfew that came into effect to curb the violence.
The lights on the north side of the White House were turned off, The Guardian reported. This only normally happens when a president dies. However this was reportedly done because authorities had access to night vision equipment.
Police then tried to use tear gas to dispel the protesters, but it didn’t quell the rage.
In suburbs that surround the White House, fires burned and protesters were filmed smashing cars.
The nation's capital is legitimately on fire in every direction. This is unreal. pic.twitter.com/hXNJ0LticL— Samantha-Jo Roth (@SamanthaJoRoth) June 1, 2020
Photos from the streets of Washington DC show shopfronts smashed, cars flipped over and streets on fire.
“George’s life matters,” read a sign, held by a protestor overlooking the flames.
Others threw a US flag on a fire, which was pulled from a nearby building.
Reporter Samantha Jo-Roth tweeted Washington DC was on fire “in every direction”.
“This is unreal,” she said.
A senior official in charge of protecting the White House told Fox News rioters threw bottles and molotov cocktails.
Police in riot gear used batons and shields to try and control the crowd.
"Who do you serve? Who do you protect?" they chanted at the officers who responded by firing pepper powders at them, CBS reported.
Amidst the chaos, multiple reports said US President Donald Trump went into an underground bunker at the White House as a precautionary measure.
The White House is yet to confirm this, and there are reports Mr Trump took this action on Friday too.
The last time it was reportedly used was in 2001 by then vice-president Dick Cheney during the September 11 attacks.
‘I’m so sick of it’
According to The Associated Press, more than 4,400 people have been arrested nationwide due to the ongoing protests.
Protesters in Philadelphia hurled rocks and Molotov cocktails at police, officials said, while thieves in more than 20 California cities smashed their way into businesses and ran off with as much as they could carry — boxes of sneakers, armloads of clothes, smartphones, TVs and other electronics.
In Minneapolis, a truck driver drove into a massive crowd of demonstrators before the driver was dragged out and beaten momentarily before being arrested by police.
Thousands marched peacefully in dozens of other cities, with some calling for an end to the fires, vandalism and theft, saying it weakened calls for justice and reform.
“They keep killing our people,” Mahira Louis, 15, said.
She marched with her mother and several hundred others in a peaceful protest through downtown Boston.
“I’m so sick and tired of it,” she said.
But as night fell that demonstration also descended into violence, with some protesters throwing rocks, bricks and glass bottles at officers and lighting a police vehicle on fire.
In downtown Atlanta, authorities fired tear gas to disperse hundreds of demonstrators. Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms said two officers had been fired and three placed on desk duty after video showed police surrounding a car Saturday, then pulling a woman out of the passenger seat and then using a stun gun on a man who was driving.
Police Chief Erika Shields called it “really shocking to watch.”
In downtown Los Angeles, a police SUV accelerated into several protesters in a street, knocking two people to the ground.
Nearby in Santa Monica, not far from a peaceful demonstration, a group broke into a Gap and a Vans sneaker store, where people walked out with boxes of shoes.
Others shattered the windows of an outdoor supply store and snatched folding chairs, a bike and backpacks as a fire broke out at a restaurant across the street.
About 48 kilometres south, as hundreds of protesters gathered in Long Beach, scores of thieves swarmed into nearby outlet stores. A steady stream emerged from a Forever 21 store carrying armloads of clothing. Some hauled it away in garbage bags, and a few stopped outside to change into stolen items.
Trump’s ‘flight from responsibility’
Far from acting to restore calm, President Trump's instinct has been to exacerbate the sense of crisis and division – blasting the demonstrators as "THUGS" and calling for crackdowns.
Mr Trump has vowed to declare the coalition of Antifa, a loose group of self-described anti-fascists, as terrorists, despite having no real legal basis to do so.
“The Lamestream Media is doing everything within their power to foment hatred and anarchy. As long as everybody understands what they are doing, that they are FAKE NEWS and truly bad people with a sick agenda, we can easily work through them to GREATNESS!” he tweeted on Sunday.
“LAW & ORDER,” he later tweeted.
Senior CNN political analyst David Gergen in an opinion piece accused the US president of “fleeing from his duty” and spending most of his week bickering with China over Hong Kong and severing ties with The World Health Organisation.
“His flight from responsibility is yet another sadness among this week's tragic losses,” he lamented.
with Reuters and AP
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