“This church has been standing in our city since the early 1800s. Please avoid the area,” the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) of the District of Columbia said on Twitter.
Firefighters quickly extinguished the basement fire, which police said was intentionally set. The MPD said it is currently responding to multiple fires intentionally set in Washington D.C and its suburban neighbourhoods.
Protestors were also seen pulling down a flag from the landmark that opened in the year 1816 and popularly nicknamed the “Church of the Presidents” as beginning with James Madison, every president has been an occasional attendee of services.
In Washington, Fox News cameras were rolling as flames erupted in the newly renovated basement of the St. John’s Church parish house; it was unclear exactly how the fire started or how much damage had been done to the church.
A senior official said more than 50 Secret Service officers have been injured so far Sunday night, with the numbers expected to worsen, as rioters hurled bottles and Molotov cocktails.
There were protests in the area all day, and protesters set several fires on Sunday evening.
ALSO READ: George Floyd protest: 40 US cities including Washington impose curfew
According to the Washington Post, in Georgetown and elsewhere in America’s capital city, people spent the afternoon hammering plywood boards outside retail shops and restaurants in the hopes their businesses would escape the attacks that others a day earlier did not. American flags and parked cars and buildings were lit ablaze.
The city is now under curfew, which went into effect at 11 p.m. (local time) and will be active until 6 a.m. on Monday.
The scale of the protests spanned from San Francisco to Boston and unfolding on a single night.
More than two dozen mayors and governors have imposed curfews, a level not seen the unrest following the 1968 assassination of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., The New York Times reported.
In Indianapolis, two people were reported dead in bursts of downtown violence, adding to deaths reported in Detroit and Minneapolis in recent days.
Earlier Sunday, people robbed stores in broad daylight in Philadelphia and Santa Monica, California, and a driver sped a semitrailer toward a massive crowd of people assembled on a highway in Minneapolis — but remarkably, there were no initial reports of anyone hurt aside from that driver.
ALSO READ: George Floyd murder: 6 US states call on National Guard as riots intensify
In neighbouring St. Paul, thousands gathered peacefully in front of the state Capitol, pledging to keep up the protests.
The National Guard’s top general on Sunday said Guard units in nearly half of US states have been mobilized to help major cities deal with the riots. Gen. Joseph Lengyel said some 16,000 additional Guard troops have been deployed to 24 states and the District of Columbia in response to civil disturbances.
Floyd died Monday after a Derek Chauvin, a white Minneapolis police officer, pressed his knee on Floyd’s neck. The officer has been charged with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter; he and three other officers were fired from the force after a video of Floyd’s death emerged.
Riots erupted from demonstrations in cities from San Francisco to Boston protesting the death of Floyd.
The latest deployment brought the total number of deployed National Guard members to about 62,000 across the country. Other Guard members already had been deployed to assist with their governments’ Covid-19 relief efforts.