Between Wednesday, May 4, and Thursday, May 5, 2022, a memorial to Miguel Gonzales at 1800 Columbia Rd NW, was removed by an unknown party.
On Saturday, April 30, 2022, community members constructed a memorial to Miguel Gonzales with photos, letters, a large framed photo, and narrative describing events leading to Miguel’s death above the public sidewalk where he perished. Over fifty people came to celebrate the life and mourn the death of the lifelong Adams Morgan resident. Miguel’s death and the vigil were covered by Derrick Ward of WNBC4 evening news.
“Miguel’s sudden death in the cold has been traumatizing for our community to witness,” said Vikram Surya Chiruvolu, a Licensed Professional Counselor in the District who co-facilitated Saturday’s vigil. He added, “There is substantial research on the positive impact of spontaneous memorials for personal healing of grief, strengthening community by public affirmation of social bonds, and reclamation of goodwill at the space where the incident occurred. The untimely and possibly malicious destruction of such property is a loss in itself, as often communities seek to preserve those materials when appropriate.”
Miguel Gonzales died in the cold snap of March 29, next to the fences erected eight days prior by Truist Bank at Adams Morgan Plaza. In the preceding weeks, Truist bank had confiscated and destroyed unhoused Plaza residents tents and sleeping bags, including Miguel’s. Truist representatives dispersed the unhoused community around the Plaza, in preparation for their encroachment and appropriation of the Plaza on that corner which had been used by the public for over 50 years.
Truist does not hold clear title to the Plaza site, with advocates claiming an easement for public use was created as part of Adams Morgan’s landmark agreement with the bank to end redlining and reinvest in the neighborhood—which in turn became the basis of the Community Reinvestment Act ending redlining nationally. The case regarding the Plaza is presently before the DC Court of Appeals, but Truist has carried out the fencing over strenuous community objections in the past year.
The Adam Morgan BID declared it wasn’t their cleaning team, and Assistant Branch Manager of the Truist bank across the street stated her staff no longer have anything to do with the fenced-in site. Orlando-based Truist VP David V. Smith has been named on the permits which effected the clearing of the plaza, but he has not responded to inquiries on the matter.
Plaza supporters and friends of Mr. Gonzales are considering their legal options and planning further action. Ward One Councilmember, Brianne Nadeau who did not attend Mr. Gonzales’ vigil on April 30, has been mum about the situation ever since a February 11, 2022, tweet saying all unhoused plaza residents had been safely placed in housing.
For further inquiry, contact Brianne Nadeau, 202-724-8181 or write firstname.lastname@example.org
(1) Will CM Nadeau respond on why she allowed Truist to clear unhoused residents’ valuables and dwellings while falsely claiming they all got housing?
(2) Will CM Nadeau take immediate action to stop Truist from desecrating Miguel’s memorial, return items placed at the Plaza site where his body was found, and urgently return other valuables stolen on 2/26/22 from other unhoused residents?
(3) Listen to the asks of her constituents to protect community spaces and regenerate Adams Morgan Plaza for the benefit of all of us (not 52 luxury apts)!