Protests around the country turned into violent riots over the weekend as rioters looted businesses, destroyed police cars, assaulted business owners and set buildings and cars ablaze. According to The Washington Post, the violence led to over 4,600 arrests.
Peaceful protesters in good faith rallied over the recent death of George Floyd, who died at the hands of Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin on May 25. Chauvin was arrested and charged with third-degree murder and manslaughter last week after a viral video showed him kneeling on Floyd’s neck for eight minutes during the arrest.
Others over the weekend, including members from the radical left-wing group Antifa, used the protests as an excuse to riot and loot. Unfortunately, churches and houses of worship were not spared from the chaos.
St. John’s Episcopal Church in Washington, D.C., located across from the White House, was set ablaze on Sunday night, right before the District of Columbia’s curfew began at 11PM. St. John’s is a historic icon in the United States. The church was designed by brilliant architect Benjamin Latrobe. Built in 1816, every sitting president since James Madison has attended the church at least once while in office. It was designated as a National Historic Landmark in 1960.
In a segment on Fox News, which was quickly posted to Twitter, a reporter can be seen walking into the basement of St. John’s at 10:24PM and peering in from a window. The entire basement was clearly engulfed in flames. “St. John’s Church is on fire,” the reporter said. “We went downstairs, and it is on fire. This is awful.”
When the fire began, protesters had surrounded the church. However, police officers in riot gear quickly dispersed tear gas to push the rioters back so the fire department could get to work.
Shortly after 11PM, the District of Columbia’s Fire and EMS Department posted on Twitter, “Box Alarm 1525 H St NW. DC’s bravest had fire in basement of church. Fire extinguished. Checking for extension.”
The rector at St John’s, Rev. Rob Fisher, gave an update on the damage to parishioners in an email Monday morning.
“I am happy to share with you that I could see no other real damage besides that one room, and quite a bit of graffiti and debris around the exterior of the church,” Fisher said. “Protestors easily could have done a lot worse to our buildings, but they chose not to do that. (The damage I saw to other nearby buildings illustrated this point.)”
As a result of the violent protests in the nation’s capital, some questioned Mayor Muriel Bowser’s decision to impose a curfew starting late at 11PM. For Monday night, Bowser has decided to begin the curfew at 7PM.
Additionally, St. Patrick’s Cathedral, a neo-gothic Roman Catholic church located in Manhattan, New York, was vandalized as rioters spray painted the building with graffiti.
Built in 1879, St. Patrick’s is the seat of the archbishop of the Archdiocese of New York, where Timothy Cardinal Dolan presides as the current archbishop.
Several acronyms as well as profanity were spray painted on the outside wall of the cathedral, along with George Floyd’s name. Police are investigating and searching for the two women suspected of the crime.
For the past several months, the nation has been grappling with the question over whether churches are “essential,” and if they provide “essential services.”
Though rioters may disagree, God-fearing citizens around the nation contend that after what we’ve all witnessed over the past week, churches are most definitely essential.
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