By DAVID GONZALEZ
Published: July 8, 1992
“The glass is full and it has started to spill,” said Manuel Viera, citing a Dominican saying as he reflected on the anger and violence that have erupted in his community since Jose Garcia was shot to death by a plainclothes police officer on Friday night.
“All this was coming, with all the problems we’ve been having,” said Mr. Viera, who owns a travel agency in Washington Heights. “The death of that man filled the glass.”
The violence that erupted may have jolted the rest of the city like a splash of ice-cold water, but the residents of Washington Heights say they have long seen it accumulating. Residents and community advocates said that police harassment was common, sometimes provoked only by walking down the street or standing on a stoop. They added that despite the law-enforcement focus on drug dealing, the deeper-seated problems with affordable housing, day care, overcrowded schools and high unemployment remain unaddressed, heightening the needs and frustrations of a rapidly growing community.
Struggle Without Respect
Mr. Viera’s travel agency sits on Amsterdam Avenue, near 156th Street, a bustling area crowded with bodegas, car services, clothing shops, restaurants and auto-parts stores that represent the labors of a people eager to claim their stake in American society. His partner, Jesus Rodriguez, fretted that despite these signs of legitimate economic struggle, too many people deny his community the respect it deserves, focusing only on the steely-faced youths who cluster on street corners with beepers and a swift, surreptitious sales pitch.
“We’re in the United States, but we still lack a lot,” said Mr. Rodriguez. “We are marginalized.”
Outside the building, at 505 West 162d Street, where Mr. Garcia was shot, scores of people swirled about the street, sometimes breaking into Spanish chants of “no justice, no peace” and “united in combat.” Facing the building was a mural in memory of Kiko, Mr. Garcia’s nickname.
Radames Marte and Rafael Geminian leaned against the freshly painted mural, casually scanning the crowd. Neither condoned the violence that broke out after the killing, but they said they understood its source.
“There’s no other way for the government to listen to us,” Mr. Marte said. “There have been too many abuses.”
Check out Led Black’s first hand account of what transpired during the 1992 Washington Heights riots below.