The White House went dark on Sunday night (Washington time) as protesters set buildings and cars on fire in chaotic scenes just outside its grounds.

The move sparked debate about whether it was actually that unusual, with some saying it never happened and others suggesting it was a regular occurrence.

The Guardian reported that the lights were only ever turned off when a President died.

Meanwhile footage has emerged of protesters smashing and overturning cars, and vandalising businesses close to the White House as rallies turned violent.

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As demonstrations continued past an 11pm curfew, Washington police said they were responding to multiple fires that were "intentionally set" around the city.

A building in the park with bathrooms and a maintenance office went up in flames and people broke into banks, bottle shops and jewellery stores.

St John's Episcopal Church, which is across from Lafayette Square, next to the White House, was also set on fire.

The church says every President beginning with James Madison, "until the present," has attended a service at the church, giving it the nickname, "the church of Presidents."

Police fired tear gas and stun grenades into a crowd of more than 1000 chanting protesters.

The crowd ran away and piled up road signs and plastic barriers to light a raging fire in a nearby street. Some pulled an American flag from a building and threw it into the blaze.

Mayor Muriel Bowser ordered a curfew from 11pm to 6am local time, with the National Guard activated to assist police in ensuring these restrictions are met.

Demonstrators protest the death of George Floyd near the White House in Washington. Photo / AP
Demonstrators protest the death of George Floyd near the White House in Washington. Photo / AP

It comes as protests have now erupted in at least 30 US cities over the death of unarmed black man George Floyd at the hands of police.

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Floyd, a 46-year-old African American, was fatally arrested in Minneapolis, Minnesota, last week. A video posted on social media of the incident allegedly showed white police officer Derek Chauvin pushing down on his neck with his knee as Floyd yelled, "I can't breathe".

Chauvin has been charged with third degree murder or manslaughter, and three other officers present have been fired.

George Floyd protests have crossed the borders and erupted worldwide. Video / Global News