The Department of Veterans Affairs headquarters and several notable veterans memorials in Washington, D.C., suffered damage Sunday night from protests in the nation’s capital, part of a series of racially-charged outbursts in cities throughout America over the last week.
Unidentified attackers broke several windows and spray painted curse words along the sides of VA’s main offices, which sit a block away from the White House.
A car was set on fire just a few yards away from the main entrance to the building. According to multiple news sources, several buildings surrounding the VA were set on fire as protesters moved from areas around the White House to streets north of Lafayette Park.
In addition, VA officials said several department offices in other downtown buildings suffered some damage.
In a statement, VA press secretary Christina Noel said leaders are still assessing the full cost of the damage.
“We know of no injuries to VA employees,” she said. “VA will take appropriate measures to ensure the safety of VA employees.”
The department did not appear to be the target of any of the protests, which has focused on police brutality and racial inequality.
More than 17,000 National Guard troops in 23 states and the District of Columbia have been activated in recent days to deal with unrest connected to the death of a handcuffed black man by Minneapolis police. One officer has been charged with murder in the incident.
Protests in Washington, D.C., centered around the White House but spread throughout the city.
At the World War II Memorial on the National Mall, vandals wrote “Do black vets count?” along the main fountain at the center of the monument. National Parks Service officials reported additional graffiti at other well-known sites along the mall.
Officials at Paralyzed Veterans of America said their Washington, D.C., headquarters — located a few blocks north of the Veterans Affairs main building — was also tagged with graffiti by protestors in the area.
On Sunday, local television crews showed police officials using pepper spray and incapacitating gas in the area surrounding VA headquarters as the city’s 11 p.m. curfew approached.
In a statement Monday, American Legion National Commander James Oxford called the vandalism on the war memorials “an absolute disgrace" that takes away from the message of the protests.
“Rioters and violent protesters are doing nothing to help George Floyd,” he said. “Moreover, America’s veterans, who witnessed horrific violence in Iraq, Afghanistan, Vietnam and Korea, should not have to see the same death and destruction here at home.”
Leo covers Congress, Veterans Affairs and the White House for Military Times. He has covered Washington, D.C. since 2004, focusing on military personnel and veterans policies. His work has earned numerous honors, including a 2009 Polk award, a 2010 National Headliner Award, the IAVA Leadership in Journalism award and the VFW News Media award.