DARCY SPENCER

Residents Look Back at Mount Pleasant Riots 30 Years Later

A photo exhibit and community concert give Mount Pleasant's residents an opportunity to reflect on what has changed — and what still needs improvement

NBC Universal, Inc.

On the night of May 5, 1991, simmering tensions between the Latino community and police came to head in the District.

Riots broke out in Mount Pleasant after a police officer shot and wounded a Salvadoran man, Daniel Enrique Gomez.

Frustration over mistreatment by law enforcement fueled fury during nights of protests. Vehicles were set on fire, store windows were broken and residents clashed with police.

Thirty years later, Mount Pleasant residents are reflecting on the uprising, including through an exhibit of black and white photos hung in neighborhood shops' windows.

Quique Aviles, a self-described poet, actor and troublemaker, wrote a poem titled “Helicopter” that’s displayed in the exhibit.

Aviles was 21 years old during the uprising and lived in the neighborhood.

He says Latinos erupted in anger “because we were sick and tired of the harassment by D.C. cops.”

Aviles says police relations with the Latino community have improved in the wake of the riots, although social and economic opportunities need to be expanded.

“Now, you have a lot of police officers in D.C. that are Latinos, that were born in this neighborhood,” Aviles said.

Ricardo Villalba says he was a teen living in the neighborhood when it happened. He's concerned not enough has changed, but remains hopeful for the future.

“After 30 years, we’re still seeing injustices. So, I feel my generation hasn’t done much to improve the lives of Black and brown people,” Villalba said.

He says the killing of George Floyd and the demonstrations that followed show that minority communities need to demand better treatment by police and accountability

The Mount Pleasant community plans to gather to reflect on the uprising at Lamont Park Friday 4-8:30 p.m. There will be DJs, musicians and a preview of Ellie Walton’s documentary about the uprising, “La Manplesa.”

The photo exhibit will continue through Saturday, May 8. You can see it at Ellē café, Corado's Restaurant, Don Juan’s, Best Work, the Mt. Pleasant Pharmacy, Melissa Beauty and Las America Dental Health.

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