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What was supposed to have been an evening of celebration for the area’s best hip-hop artists instead eroded into violence last night, when five or six fights erupted on the first and second floors of the Crystal City Hyatt Hotel in Arlington County during the fifth annual DMV Music Awards.
Det. Crystal Nosal, a spokesperson for the Arlington County Police Department, said that roughly 1,500 people attended the awards show. Because of the flood of 911 calls, the police department sent all of its cars on the street to the hotel, she said. Five people were taken local hospitals, including a Hyatt buffet worker, who was seen leaving an employee-only lounge holding a towel to his eye. Crystal City Hyatt General Manager Jean-Marc Dizard could not confirm where the worker was hit.
There were no arrests and an investigation is ongoing, Nosal said.
Unfortunately, the actions of a few have now left a black eye on a hip-hop scene still struggling to find its place as a nationally acknowledged music hub. And while the organizers’ intentions were good and they aren’t to blame for the fights, that doesn’t hide the fact that this awards show was unruly from the beginning.
Throughout, artists and other guests seemed more focused on socializing and showing off than respecting what was happening on stage. A near who’s who of the DMV lined the walls of the Hyatt ballroom and walked the aisles (do you see that going on at The Grammy’s?). Sure, there were 1,500 people there, but you’d never have known it, since so many people floated in and out of the ballroom during the ceremony. Simply put: The entire night was disrespectful.
Then the fights happened. Details are still hazy, but one witness told Arts Desk that he saw “five or six different skirmishes going on,” with as many as 15 people beating up on one guy.
“They almost threw one guy over the balcony,” said Tim Borland, a U.S. Army veteran staying at the Hyatt for a veterans convention. “It was awful. I would think there is probably some local gangs here who don’t like each other.”
That’s one of my biggest concerns about last night’s debacle. Last year’s DMV Awards took place at the Hampton Inn Conference Center, in a hard-to-find industrial park in Prince George’s County. This year, thanks to organizer Dre All Day and his team, the awards ceremony was held at a posh Hyatt hotel in a relatively ritzy part of the region. When I arrived, the first thing I noticed was a large number of elderly white people in the hotel lobby. But when you think “hip-hop,” you think of young black people. To have an epic altercation surrounded by so many whites only reinforces negative stereotypes of African-Americans.
The DMV’s music scene doesn’t deserve to be relegated to a beat-up industrial park; it truly deserves better surroundings. After last night’s incident, however, it’s unclear how soon the awards show can bounce back from such a display. Sure, last night’s Twitter dispatches offered a mixture of dismay and positive spin, but this debacle will not soon be forgotten, especially when it’s time to plan next year’s awards show.