WASHINGTON -- The leader of the nation's major Hispanic advocacy organization told a federal civil rights panel yesterday that Hispanic rioting in the District of Columbia last week was a matter of "national significance."
Raul Yzaguirre, president of the National Council of La Raza, offered his assessment in a statement to the District of Columbia advisory committee of the U.S. Civil Rights Commission.
The meeting was called to examine the causes of the riot and the extent to which the issue of Hispanic civil rights may have been involved.
From a "civil rights point of view," Mr. Yzaguirre said, the rioting in the Mount Pleasant neighborhood of the city reflected Hispanic anger at "a . . . movement that's accumulating some strength in this country," which "says that people who speak a different language and whose immigration status is questioned somehow are less deserving of rights and respect than other Americans."
Appearing first before the civil rights panel was Pedro Aviles, the youthful head of the week-old District of Columbia Latino Civil Rights Task Force, an organization of Mount Pleasant leaders that seeks to put the grievances of Washington's Hispanics before Mayor Sharon Pratt Dixon.
Mr. Aviles said that the Dixon administration has "engaged in a pattern" of violating local Hispanics' civil rights, and he called upon the Civil Rights Commission to "take the proper actions to safeguard our civil rights."
Also appearing before the panel was the Rev. Jesse L. Jackson, now one of the two District non-voting, "shadow" U.S. senators.
"This is a local manifestation of a national crisis," Mr. Jackson said of the rioting. The commission meeting, he said, "is as much a hearing for Los Angeles and Denver as Washington, D.C."