The third day of protests in DC after George Floyd was killed by police in Minneapolis started peacefully. But the scene Sunday became turbulent in downtown DC as the sun set: police used tear gas and flashbangs in the crowds as buildings were set on fire and storefronts damaged.
One of those storefronts damaged was the HIIT gym 202 Strong on I Street (the group also has a location in Bethesda). Maddie Watkins, the owner of 202 Strong, posted an Instagram this morning that shows the glass windows of the storefront smashed. The caption of her Instagram reads: “I hope we can find the strength for compassion, love, and understanding. Buildings can be rebuilt. Lost lives cannot.”
Watkins, 32, didn’t know about the damage until this morning, she says, when a friend sent her a Washington Post article that contained a photo of someone breaking the door of the building in which 202 Strong is a tenant (a screenshot of the photo is the second slide in Watkins’ Instagram).
A fellow 202 Strong employee was near the downtown DC gym this morning and sent Watkins a photo, as well. She hopped in the car from Bethesda and was there by 7:45 AM to survey the damage, she says.
“Your initial reaction is it’s very upsetting,” says Watkins, who voiced support for the Black Lives Matter protest on 202 Strong’s Instagram earlier on Sunday. “But ultimately the bigger message and the deeper message that’s being presented here is the most important.”
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We stand for inclusivity and a safe space to be yourself. We stand for racial equality and an end for racial profiling. We stand for the lives of black men and women and their safety and freedom. Together, we are STRONG. Let’s be even STRONGER now. What we witnessed with the death of George Floyd and the millions of other lives insensibly lost is not ok. And we want you to know that we stand for change and equality.
By Monday afternoon, the broken glass had been swept up, says Watkins, and the building management was working on boarding up the broken windows. Watkins says she doesn’t know the particulars about who caused the damage and at what exact time it happened.
While 202 Strong hasn’t been physically open during the pandemic, they have been streaming online classes. Watkins says no equipment was taken from the gym, and she hopes insurance will cover the damage.
But, overall, the building isn’t her main concern, she says. “There is a such a bigger picture. There are voices that need to be heard,” says Watkins. “I understand everyone being upset for their own reasons, but if we can then come together as a community in the city of DC to really hear the message that needs to heard, I think we can make an impactful change.”