It's probably safe to say that the riots in the largely Hispanic Mount Pleasant neighborhood of Washington, D.C., this week caught the city's politicians, police and affluent middle class as much by surprise as did the black riots in that city a generation ago. And yet the immediate cause of the disturbances, as described by those willing to talk to reporters on the scene, had a depressingly familiar ring.
"This explosion has been brewing for a long time," said Mount Pleasant resident Bea Rodgriguez as young men nearby overturned cars, broke store windows and set trash cans afire. "If you live here, you see a lot of abuse by police."
The violence began Sunday evening, sparked by the shooting of a Hispanic man by a rookie police officer. It resumed late Monday, prompting the city's new mayor, Sharon Pratt Dixon, to declare a state of emergency and impose a midnight to 5 a.m. curfew in the affected areas of the city. Previously, the mayor and her cabinet had tried to defuse the crisis by meeting with Hispanic leaders, who expressed a long list of grievances related to police misconduct and the city's benign neglect of their community.