As night fell, parts of the crowd broke away and marched to the U.S. Embassy. Black smoke and flames were soon billowing out a front window.
The same group also vandalized the neighboring Croatian Embassy, a McDonald’s restaurant, and several other stores. Elsewhere in the city, police beat back crowds who tried to attack the Turkish and British embassies.
Television images showed hundreds of people surging through the streets as anti-riot police arrived and fired tear gas canisters as crowd control.
In Washington, State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said Undersecretary of State Nicholas Burns had telephoned Serbian Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica and Foreign Minister Vuk Jeremic to convey the message that they had not adequately protected the U.S. Embassy.
On February 17 and 18, crowds threw stones at the U.S. and Turkish embassies in Belgrade and damaged the mission of Slovenia, which currently heads the rotating EU Presidency.
Infrastructure Minister Velimir Ilic, who heads the New Serbia party, said on February 20 that the action was “just Serbian youth expressing their protest” over the “dismembering of Serbia,” adding that such incidents are part of “democracy.”