VA Assessing Damage to Headquarters Following Violent Protests

shattered window Department of Veterans Affairs Washington
A man is seen through a shattered window at the Department of Veterans Affairs as he cleans up glass in Washington, Monday, June 1, 2020, after a night of protests over the death of George Floyd. Floyd died after being restrained by Minneapolis police officers. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

With its proximity to the White House and views of the Washington Monument, the Department of Veterans Affairs sits on prime real estate at the heart of the nation's capital.

The coveted location proved to be a liability Sunday night, however, placing the facility squarely in the middle of violent clashes between protesters and police.

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On late Sunday night at the VA's doorstep, vandals lit trash cans and parked cars on fire, as well as the basement of the historic St. John's Episcopal Church, often called the "Church of the Presidents," a block away. (The fire was quickly extinguished by firefighters.)

By morning, the VA's Central Office had sustained several broken windows, and graffiti had been spray-painted across its façade. Across the street, the VA's Lafayette Building, which houses many of its offices, lost most of its ground-floor windows.

VA spokeswoman Christina Noel said Monday that other buildings housing VA offices were vandalized over the weekend but did not provide their locations or the extent of the damage.

"We are assessing the cost of the damage," she said, adding that the VA's Central Office knew of "no injuries to VA employees."

The violence that erupted in Washington, D.C., on Sunday night followed a pattern similar to events Friday and Saturday. After a series of peaceful daytime protests across the city, activists began gathering in specific locations, including Lafayette Square, across from the White House, to face off against police.

Violence erupted as an 11 p.m. curfew drew nearer, with vandals breaking windows of coffee shops and banks near the VA, and hurling bottles and other objects at Metropolitan Police. The force fired rubber bullets at the crowds and deployed tear gas and pepper spray in attempts to disperse the group.

The protests began in Minneapolis in reaction to the death of George Floyd, a black suspect who died May 25 after a Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck for more than eight minutes, according to bystander videos. The protests have spread nationwide, with many becoming violent.

In response, the Army and Air National Guards have been activated in 23 states, as well as the District of Columbia, bringing the total number of Guard members currently activated to nearly 62,000, including those already called up to assist with the national response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Noel said the VA is assessing the damage across the system and working to ensure that its employees are safe.

"VA will take appropriate measures to ensure the safety of VA employees," she said.

-- Patricia Kime can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @patriciakime.

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