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CEO DATELINE – Motion Picture Association, U.S. Chamber offices hit by D.C. protests

June 1, 2020
By Walt Williams

DC Fire tweetD.C. Fire and EMS posted video early Sunday monring of firefighters putting out a scaffolding fire near the Hay-Adams Hotel in Washington, D.C.

The Washington, D.C., offices of the Motion Picture Association were damaged over the weekend during protests near the White House. At the same time, a fire either at or near the U.S. Chamber of Commerce caused firefighters to scramble to the scene.

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Both MPA and the Chamber headquarters are located between H and I streets in Washington, across Lafayette Square park from the White House. A large crowd gathered Saturday night at the park as part of nationwide protests triggered by the May 25 death of African American man George Floyd in police custody.

At one point during the protest, news cameras caught what appeared to be a large fire in an alleyway behind the Hay-Adams Hotel, which neighbors both the Chamber and MPA buildings. D.C. Fire and EMS tweeted that a multistory scaffolding had caught fire and was extinguished but provided no other details other than the fire had not reached the hotel. The Chamber headquarters is currently surrounded by scaffolding as part of a major renovation of the building, although it is unclear whether that was the scaffolding that caught fire.

(The New York Times reported Sunday that the Chamber was on fire and had its windows smashed. The Chamber had not issued a statement on the alleged damage as of Monday morning.)

Several buildings near the site of the protest were also vandalized and defaced during the night. In a note to staff posted on the MPA website Sunday, CEO Charles Rivkin said the association’s headquarters sustained “protest-related defacement and damage.”

“Since last night, the facilities team has also been in contact with the building owner, management company, and on-site security team, who are assessing the physical damage to the building,” Rivkin said. “An initial survey indicates that while there was some damage to the entrance and exterior of the building, our offices and event space were not directly impacted.”

Rivkin also addressed the cause of the protests, saying he was deeply disturbed by “yet another example of the callous disregard of an African American life at the hands of a police officer sworn to protect all of us.”

“The nationwide outcry in response to Mr. Floyd’s tragic death—on top of all of the painful loss, isolation, and economic hardship of this unprecedented time—is a reminder of our country’s open wound on the issue of racism,” he said. “It makes clear how much more difficult work remains to be done to create a more just and peaceful future for everyone.”

The protests continued Sunday night, resulting in several fires near the White House and several buildings in the surrounding area getting vandalized and looted. There was no word as of early Monday morning whether MPA or the Chamber buildings sustained additional damage.