Over 200 people gathered in the early morning hours today and shut down Valencia Street in front of the San Francisco Police Department’s Mission District station. Sixteen activists locked themselves down for four hours and 15 minutes, blocking the gate to the parking lot and chaining themselves to large-scale art work in front of the station.
There, they held a people’s trial of the four officers who shot and killed Alex Nieto a year ago on Bernal Hill. “We are seeking our own justice through a people’s public trial and putting the four police officers on trial in the streets,” said Adriana Camarena, a supporter for justice for Alex Nieto. Family members of people killed by police testified about the unjust, unresolved murders of their children.
Protestors also blocked a tech bus carrying eBay workers to highlight the connection between the violence of gentrification and the violence of police. Protesters assert that the targeting and racial profiling of poor people of color is directly linked to the forced displacement of residents in San Francisco.
Nancy Hernandez, a Bernal Heights resident, said, “Gentrification has worsened police harassment of the working class community of color in San Francisco.” Protesters demand more resources be directed to families in need rather than increase the SFPD budget.
Last month Nieto’s family had to relive the pain of his unjust death when District Attorney George Gascón cleared the four officers involved in the shooting of Nieto – Lt. Jason Sawyer and Officers Roger Morse, Richard Schiff and Nathan Chew.
In the last year since Nieto’s death, four more people have been killed by SFPD: Amilcar Pérez-López, O’Shaine Evans, Matthew Hoffman and Alice Brown.
Since 2000, 97 shootings involving SFPD officers have resulted in 33 deaths. SFPD has found all those killings to be within policy, according to SFPD’s Internal Affairs Department. To our knowledge, none of these officers have been prosecuted by the district attorney.
Today’s efforts were also part of the national Black Lives Matter movement and the public outcry against the killing of unarmed Black men by police. According to a report released last year by the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement, a Black person is killed every 28 hours by a police officer, security guard or self-appointed vigilante. “We are here to put local faces to a national crisis,” said Juana Tello, a San Francisco native resident.
“We are here to give notice to the SFPD and other police departments across the country that our communities will not sit passively while we are targeted,” said Rebecca Ruiz-Lichter, from the Idriss Stelley Foundation. “We deserve to live with dignity and we deserve justice and to tell the City that with no consequences, we have no confidence.”
“Before Alex died we trusted in the police and the City government,” Nieto’s father, Refugio Nieto, wrote in a statement for the anniversary of his son’s death, read by Adriana Camarena during the anniversary commemoration Sunday. “But after Alex’s death and seeing the lies they told of him, we lost all trust.”
Another community member at the Sunday commemoration recounted his experience with police. “I’ve had cops draw guns on me three times,” said Khafre Jay, the executive director of Hip Hop for Change. Jay, who’s from Hunters Point, said he was once slammed on the hood of a police car because an officer said he looked “like a gang member.”
“I’m not sure we’ll get justice in a tangible sense, but people coming together like this is the most important thing,” said Jay. “I wish I didn’t have to have my heart beat when I see a police officer. I wish I didn’t have to put my hands up when they pull me over, so they don’t shoot me.”