By Gregg Re-Fox News
A senior official in the direct chain of command for defending Washington D.C. told Fox News that more than 50 Secret Service officers have been injured Sunday night so far, and that some rioters are throwing bottles and Molotov cocktails.
As observed in New York City and elsewhere, groups in D.C. are planting cars filled with incendiary materials for future use, Fox News is told.
U.S. Marshals and Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agents have been deployed to the streets of D.C. in an extraordinary move to beef up security alongside local police and Homeland Security agents, including the Secret Service, the Justice Department confirmed late Sunday. Fox News has learned U.S. Attorney for D.C. Mike Sherwin is heavily involved in the operation.
Additionally, the entire Washington, D.C. National Guard is being called in to help with the response to protests outside the White House and elsewhere in the nation’s capital, according to two Defense Department officials. Washington Mayor Muriel Bowser said Sunday that she had requested 500 DC Guardsman to assist local law enforcement. Later on Sunday, as the protests escalated, Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy ordered the rest of the Guardsman — roughly 1,200 soldiers — to report.
As authorities clashed with demonstrators for the third straight night, the parish house connected to the historic St. John’s Episcopal Church across the street from the White House was set on fire late Sunday. The parish house contains offices and parlors for gatherings. The basement, which was also on fire, is used for childcare during church services, and had recently undergone renovations.
Before the blaze, church officials had said they were thankful that the previous day of protests hadn’t significantly damaged the structure.
“We are fortunate that the damage to the buildings is limited,” Rev. Rob Fisher, the rector of the church, said in a statement earlier Sunday, several hours before the fire was set. “There is some exterior graffiti, and the protective glass over one of the more modern stained-glass windows on the north side of the narthex has been broken (the stained glass itself is unharmed). Thankfully, there is no damage inside either of the buildings. This morning we secured, as best we could, our most valuable items.”
The American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) building was also set ablaze near the White House. The AFL-CIO is the nation’s largest pro-union group.
An hour before the 11 p.m. ET curfew in D.C., police fired a major barrage of tear gas stun grenades into the crowd of more than 1,000 people, largely clearing Lafayette Park across the street from the White House and scattering protesters into the street.
Protesters piled up road signs and plastic barriers and lit a raging fire in the middle of H Street. Some pulled an American flag from a nearby building and threw it into the blaze. Others added branches pulled from trees. A cinder block structure, on the north side of the park, that had bathrooms and a maintenance office, was engulfed in flames.
Several miles north, a separate protest broke out in Northwest D.C., near the Maryland border. The Metropolitan Police Department says there were break-ins at a Target and a shopping center that houses Neiman Marcus, Saks Fifth Avenue Men’s Store, T.J. Maxx, a movie theater and specialty stores. Police say several individuals have been detained.
Separately on Sunday, Twitter suspended the account of Antifa, the left-wing group that Trump branded a terrorist organization earlier in the day. The suspension came after Antifa urged members to go into “white hoods” and “take what’s ours.” Twitter and President Trump have sparred in recent days over censorship.
The developments came as it emerged that the Secret Service took President Trump to the White House’s underground bunker on Friday night, when protests over the in-custody death of George Floyd intensified outside the complex.
A senior administration official confirmed the information to Fox News after The New York Times first reported the story.
“Wasn’t long. But he went,” the official said Sunday.
The White House declined to comment.
“The White House does not comment on security protocols and decisions,” White House spokesman Judd Deere said.
Trump’s precise position Sunday night was not immediately clear.
The D.C. demonstration was one of several around the country responding to the death of Floyd, a black man who died in police custody.
Four officers have been fired in the Floyd case, and one has been arrested. A video showed the arrested officer kneeling on Floyd for several minutes as he screamed that he could not breathe, although an initial medical examiner’s report found “no physical findings that support a diagnosis of traumatic asphyxia or strangulation” — and cited Floyd’s “underlying health conditions including coronary artery disease and hypertensive heart disease,” as well as the “potential intoxicants” in his system.
Around the time Trump headed to the safety Friday night, multiple agents were being “assaulted with bricks, rocks, bottles, fireworks and other items” — injuring a number of uniformed division officers and special agents, according to the Secret Service.
The extent of the injuries was unclear. No one reportedly made it over the White House fence, but the agency determined that the situation warranted immediate action.
Trump has said he had “watched every move” from inside the executive mansion during Friday’s protest and “couldn’t have felt more safe” as the Secret Service let the protesters carry on, “but whenever someone … got too frisky or out of line, they would quickly come down on then, hard — didn’t know what hit them.”
On Saturday morning, Trump praised the Secret Service for its protection of the White House the previous night, calling them “very cool & very professional” — and warned that any protesters who breached the fence would have met by “vicious dogs” and “ominous weapons.”
“The President doesn’t make the call to move to the bunker,” Dan Bongino, a former lead Secret Service agent in the presidential protective detail and a Fox News contributor, wrote on Sunday. “The trained professionals of the Secret Service do.”
While unusual, it isn’t unprecedented for protectees to be taken to the underground bunker when there are aerial intrusions or other threats to the White House. Top White House officials, including then-Vice President Dick Cheney, were whisked to the bunker after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.
The mob outside the White House had also turned its rage on a Fox News crew early Saturday, chasing and pummeling the journalists in a harrowing scene captured on video.
Veteran reporter Leland Vittert was covering protests in Lafayette Park just before1 a.m. with three crewmembers when as many as a dozen masked protesters surrounded them, in footage caught by the Daily Caller.
After a protester lunged at Vittert while he was reporting on-air, the team made a beeline out of the park, with the hostile and growing crowd in pursuit.
Vittert and the crew were punched and hit with projectiles as they fled, and a Fox News camera was broken when a member of the mob tried to grab it.
Police fired pepper spray at demonstrators near the White House and the D.C. National Guard was called in this weekend, as the scene outside the White House seemed fraught again on Sunday night.
The Secret Service tweeted late Sunday: “In an effort to ensure public safety, pedestrians and motorists are encouraged to avoid streets and parks near the White House complex.”
Hundreds of people converged on the White House and marched along the National Mall, chanting “Black Lives Matter,” “I can’t breathe” and “No justice, no peace.”
Protesters threw water bottles, traffic cones, scooters, even tear gas cans at police lines. They set fire to a car and a trash bin and smashed windows, including at Bay Atlantic University. “What are you doing? That’s a school,” one man yelled.
An American flag hanging at the Export-Import Bank was taken down, burned and replaced with a Black Lives Matter banner.
Trump appeared to cheer on the tougher tactics being used by law enforcement to disperse protesters Saturday night. He commended National Guard troops deployed in Minneapolis, declaring “No games!” and he also said police in New York City “must be allowed to do their job!”
“Let New York’s Finest be New York’s Finest,” Trump said on Twitter after returning to the White House from Florida, where he watched the launch of a SpaceX rocket. He did not talk to reporters upon his return and it was not clear if he could hear the protest over the sound of his helicopter. But for at least part of the flight, televisions on Air Force One were turned to Fox News and its coverage of the protests.
Earlier in the day, he had belittled the protesters and pledged to “stop mob violence.”
“I stand before you as a friend and ally to every American seeking justice and peace, and I stand before you in firm opposition to anyone exploiting this tragedy to loot, rob, attack and menace,” the president said after watching the launch of a SpaceX rocket. “Healing, not hatred, justice, not chaos, are the missions at hand.”
Police were in tactical gear. The D.C. National Guard was activated at the direction of the secretary of the Army and at the request of the Park Police to help maintain order near the White House, Commanding Gen. William J. Walker said in a post on the Guard’s Facebook page.
While some protesters stayed near the White House, others marched through the streets chanting, “No justice and no peace.” and “Say his name: George Floyd.” The mood was angry and several speakers implored marchers to remain peaceful.
The march paused between the Washington Monument and the National Museum of African American History and Culture. Demonstrators sat down in the street for a moment of silence lasting for the eight minutes or more that the Minneapolis police officer reportedly knelt on Floyd’s neck.
At the Lincoln Memorial, one organizer spoke over a megaphone. “Look to the left and to the right and thank that person. We can’t hug anybody because of COVID, but I love you anyway.” Many of the protesters wore masks, but did not socially distance themselves.
Another group circled through the Capitol Hill neighborhood for at least an hour in cars, honking. A helicopter hovered overhead.
In a series of tweets earlier Saturday, Trump doubted protesters’ allegiance to Floyd’s memory, saying they were “professionally managed.”
Trump later rejected the suggestion that he was stoking a potential conflict between protesters and his supporters. “I was just asking. But I have no idea if they are going to be here,” he said. “MAGA is Make America Great Again. By the way, they love African American people. They love black people.”
At Saturday’s demonstration, there was no evidence of a counter-move by Trump supporters.
The president also criticized the mayors of Washington and Minneapolis.
Trump said Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey “is probably a very good person, but he’s a radical, left mayor.” He then described how he watched as a police station in the city was overrun. “For that police station to be abandoned and taken over, I’ve never seen anything so horrible and stupid in my life,” Trump said when speaking briefly to reporters at the White House.
He said Minnesota officials have to get tougher with rioters, and that by doing so they would be honoring the memory of Floyd.
The Secret Service said in a statement Saturday that six protesters were arrested in Washington and “multiple” officers were injured. There were no details on the charges or nature of the injuries. A spokesman for U.S. Park Police said their officers made no arrests, but several suffered minor injuries and one was taken to a hospital after being struck in the helmet by a projectile.
Acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf on Saturday called the protesters “criminals” who committed “acts of violence while hiding behind their First Amendment right of lawful protest.”
Late Saturday and early Sunday, protesters vented their rage by breaking into tony shops of Georgetown, on the western edge of the District, and in downtown Washington, breaking windows and glass doors of many stores and looting some of them.
In his tweeting, Trump claimed that many Secret Service agents were “just waiting for action” and ready to unleash “the most vicious dogs, and the most ominous weapons, I have ever seen.” His reference to “vicious dogs” potentially being sicced on protesters revisits images from the civil rights movement when marchers faced snarling police dogs and high-pressure fire hoses.
In a news conference Saturday afternoon, Muriel Bowser, mayor of the nation’s capital, called Trump’s remarks “gross” and said the reference to attack dogs conjures up with the worst memories of the nation’s fight against segregation.
“I call upon our city and our nation to exercise restraint, great restraint, even as the president tries to divide us,” she said. “I feel like these comments are an attack on humanity, an attack on black America, and they make my city less safe.”
In contrast with the president’s tweets, the Secret Service said it “respects the right to assemble and we ask that individuals do so peacefully for the safety of all.”
Fox News’ Bret Baier, Alex Pappas, Mark Meredith, Greg Wilson, John Roberts, and The Associated Press contributed to this report.