Secret Service agents in riot gear clashed with crowds of protesters who burst through barricades close to the White House, blasting them with pepper spray in what one onlooker described as a scene of 'insanity' in the nation's capital.
It came just hours after Donald Trump threatened people protesting the death of George Floyd with "vicious dogs" and "ominous weapons" if they breached the White House fence.
Journalist Alejandro Alvarez tweeted: "Insanity outside the White House. Three warnings of an unlawful assembly from the Secret Service before storming into the crowd."
It was one of dozens of flashpoints on a dark day for America, which saw the National Guard activated in Washington DC along with multiple states, while city mayors across the nation - including Los Angeles and Philadelphia - tried to lock down their citizens with rushed curfew orders.
In Chicago, police raised bridges to stop protesters reaching Trump Tower, in New York an NYPD vehicle rammed into a crowd of people who tried to block its path, while widespread looting was seen in Los Angeles.
The National Guard was sent out in Minneapolis, where streets were alight with tension and violence on Saturday night after repeated disturbances on previous evenings.
Mr Trump cheered them on via Twitter, posting: “The National Guard has been released in Minneapolis to do the job that the Democrat Mayor couldn’t do. Should have been used 2 days ago & there would not have been damage & Police Headquarters would not have been taken over & ruined.”
He added: “Great job by the National Guard. No games!”
Back in the nation’s capital, on-the-ground footage showed lines of uniformed officers pushing back the crowd, as bottles and liquid are thrown through the air.
Later, protesters breached a second set of barricades of the fortified Lafayette Square and were pushed back and chased by Secret Service officers.
Nearby, US Senator Kamala Harris joined peaceful protesters who were chanting 'hands up, don't shoot' - a reference to the killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri.
Speaking at Cape Canaveral, Florida after the successful launch of Elon Musk's rocket earlier in the day, Mr Trump blasted what he described as the "rioters, looters and anarchists" that have taken to the streets and warned them that "there will be no anarchy".
"The memory of George Floyd is being dishonoured by rioters, looters and anarchists," he said. "The violence and vandalism is being led by Antifa and other radical left wing groups who are terrorising the innocent, destroying jobs, hurting businesses and burning down buildings."
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