Community Shuts Down Valencia St. in Front of SFPD Mission Station; Puts Police on Trial

Community Shuts Down Valencia St. in Front of SFPD Mission Station; Puts Police on Trial

SAN FRANCISCO– 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 fifteen 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. 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 family in need rather than increase the SFPD budget.

The action took place in commemoration of the one-year anniversary of the killing of Alex Nieto by the SFPD. The demonstration was organized to protest the lack of a criminal indictment of the SFPD officers involved in the shooting and also highlighted the ongoing killings of people of color by police in communities across the nation.

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 Perez Lopez, O’Shaine Evans, Matthew Hoffman, and Alice Brown.

Since 2000, there have been 97 officer-involved shootings resulting 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 Matters 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 vigilantes. “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 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.”

Words from Refugio and Elvira Nieto on the One Year Community Commemoration of Alex Nieto (English/Español)

Words from Refugio and Elvira Nieto on the One Year Community Commemoration of Alex Nieto
March 21st, 2015, Mission District, San Francisco, CA

Here we are and it seems incredible that a year has transpired since Alex was taken from us.

I, Refugio, miss his jokes. Sometimes in the morning, he’d enter quietly into our room and rip the covers off of us. I also remember that he would squeeze me, hugging me from behind, and when I’d get mad at him, he’d smile and say, “Don’t get grumpy, old man.” Now, I wake up stiff. I must be missing his hugs.

I, Elvira, remember that he loved to eat: enchiladas, tacos, fajitas, barbequed goat, pork in green chile sauce, pinto and black beans, everything. I remember he would grab his belly, the rolls of fat, and say, “Mami, I’m going to exercise to lose weight!”

I, Refugio, remember that before Alex died we trusted in the police and the City government, but after Alex’s death and seeing the lies they told of him, we lost all trust. These days I think often that Alex was excited to go to Mexico in September to visit our town. It is the greatest and most painful sorrow that that journey did not take place.

I, Elvira, remember that the district attorney told us he was going to help us and in the end he said nothing could be done for us.

I, Refugio, remember in those first days after the death of Alex that his friends arrived —Ben Bac Sierra and María Villalta— to offer their help. Then Joey Vaez and Adriana Camarena.

I, Elvira, of those first days, remember nothing.

I, Refugio, remember that more of Alex’s friends gathered to help. I had never been to marches and I felt like I wanted to escape. I felt out of place in the crowd. Reporters and people greeted me and I felt confused. It took me months to understand why I was there. In those days, I would hear the doorbell ring late at night: Alex returning from his night shift. I would hear it clearly, but when I looked out the window, he would not be there.

I, Elvira, in those early days, would not even leave the house. We had never been to those protest things, despite Alex loving to support justice causes. I would wake up and ask “Is this a dream?” I felt he was there but he was not. I ask myself if it is worse to suffer the death of a loved one with a prolonged illness, but being able to see them, or an abrupt death such as Alex’s.

I, Elvira, remember that he was about to enter his internship at the Juvenile Hall to counsel youth. It was his great, greatest aspiration.

I, Refugio, remember that he had just completed his exams to take that job, but to motivate him I would say, “I don’t believe you. The facts will speak for themselves when you bring me your certificate.”

I, Elvira, remember when after his death we received his certificate of graduation from City College in time for Mother’s Day.

I, Refugio, remember telling Alex “Forgive me, son, for having doubted you.”

I, Refugio, gradually learned that it was important to march. Even though they gave us nothing, we were distracted from our anguish.

I, Elvira, realize that the police want us to stay real quiet, but protest marches are meant to awaken people. Since I was told that the officers who killed Alex will not face a criminal trial, the marches have become even more important.

I, Refugio, think that we have met so many very beautiful people at those marches. It was a pleasure to feel so much love for Alex. I would even put my hand on my chest to feel my heart flutter. I thought maybe I would die and would tell Elvira, “If I die, you have to carry on.” I would even feel embarrassed by so many people wanting to greet me. Those hugs would reach so deep inside me that sometimes tears would flow. It was and continues to be so lovely to see the people who are still accompanying us.

I, Elvira, see that we have met so many people who knew Alex, of whom we had no prior knowledge. I feel such pride that Alex was so loving and friendly with all people.

I, Refugio, feel it would be just for Alex’s killers to face trial and to be fired, but feel that justice might not be found by formal means. The only thing left to do is to continue learning who killed him. Let their faces be known.

I, Elvira, feel it should be known who are those officers and their exact reasons for killing Alex.

I, Refugio, want to see a change in the process, even if small, so that a sincere and unbiased investigation can be carried out. Why did they have to shoot him so many times as he lay on the ground?

I, Elvira, want to know exactly what happened that day and let the public know the type of police we have.

I, Refugio, give thanks that you still believe that we can have justice, and ask not to let yourselves be intimidated, since we do not know when this will end. It is not for us: It is for Alex and for the entire community, so that we learn to hold unity.

I, Elvira, give you thanks for helping us and continuing on with us.

Please join us for Alex Nieto’s One Year Community Commemoration, March 21, 2015
Facebook invite:
Alex Nieto’s One Year Community Commemoration, March 21, 2015

Note: This essay was written with the assistance of Adriana Camarena. 

Palabras de Refugio y Elvira Nieto en la Primera Conmemoración Anual Comunitaria de Alex Nieto
21 de marzo de 2015, Mission District, San Francisco, CA

Aquí estamos y parece increíble que haya transcurrido un año desde que nos dejaron sin Alex.

Yo, Refugio, extraño sus bromas. A veces temprano en la mañana, entraba calladito al cuarto y nos arrancaba las cobijas. También recuerdo que me estrujaba, abrazándome por atrás y cuando me enojaba con él, me decía sonriendo, “No se me enoje, viejón.” Ahora amanezco todo tieso, me han de faltar sus abrazos.

Yo, Elvira, recuerdo que le encantaba comer: enchiladas, tacos, fajitas, chivito en barbacoa, carne de puerco en chile verde, frijoles pintos y negros, de todo. Recuerdo que se agarraba la panza, los rollos de lonja, y me decía “¡Mami, ya voy hacer ejercicio para perder de peso!”

Yo, Refugio, recuerdo que antes de que muriera Alex teníamos confianza en la policía y en el gobierno de la ciudad, pero con la muerte de Alex y viendo las mentiras que contaran a su muerte, se ha perdido toda confianza. En estos días pienso mucho en que Alex estaba emocionado de ir a México en Septiembre a visitar nuestro pueblo. Es lo más triste y doloroso que no se dio ese viaje.

Yo, Elvira, recuerdo que nos dijo el fiscal de distrito que nos iban ayudar y al final dijo que no podía hacer nada por nosotros.

Yo, Refugio, recuerdo que en esos primeros días después de la muerte de Alex llegaron los amigos de Alex —Ben Bac Sierra y María Villalta— a ofrecer su ayuda. Luego Joey Vaez y Adriana Camarena.

Yo, Elvira, en esos primeros días, no recuerdo nada.

Yo, Refugio, recuerdo que se fueron juntando otros amigos para ayudar. Yo nunca había estado en una marcha y yo me sentía que quería escapar. Me sentía fuera de lugar entre la gente. Los periodistas y la gente me saludaba y yo me confundía. Me tarde meses en entender porque estaba ahí. En esos días, escuchaba que sonaba el timbre, que era Alex regresando de su turno de noche. Lo escuchaba clarito pero al asomarme por la ventana, él no estaba ahí.

Yo, Elvira, en esos días, ni salía. Jamás habíamos estado en esas cosas de las marchas, siendo que Alex tanto le gustaba apoyar las causas de justicia. Yo despertaba y preguntaba “¿Será un sueño?” Sentía que él estaba ahí y luego no estaba. Me pregunto si será peor sufrir la muerte de un ser querido con una enfermedad larga, pero estar viéndolos, o una muerte así repentina como la de Alex.

Yo, Elvira, recuerdo que estaba él por entrar a su pasantía en el Juvenile Hall para aconsejar a los muchachos. Era su gran, gran ilusión.

Yo, Refugio, recuerdo que acaba de cumplir sus exámenes para tomar ese trabajo, pero yo le decía para motivarlo, “No te creo. Los hechos hablarán por si mismos cuando me presentes tu títulos.”

Yo, Elvira, recuerdo cuando después de su muerte nos llegó su certificado de cumplimiento de estudios de City College justo antes de Día de las Madres.

Yo, Refugio, recuerdo decirle a Alex “Discúlpame, mi hijo, por haber desconfiado.”

Yo, Refugio, fui aprendiendo que era importante marchar. Aunque no nos dieron nada, nos ayudaba a distraernos de nuestra angustia.

Yo, Elvira, me doy cuenta que la policía quiere que nos quedemos calladitos, pero esas marchas son para despertar a la gente. Desde que me dijeron que ya no van a enjuiciar penalmente a los policías, las marchas se han vuelto más importantes.

Yo, Refugio, pienso que hemos conocido tanta gente tan hermosa en las marchas. Era un placer sentir tanto amor para Alex. Hasta me ponía la mano sobre el pecho para sentir mi corazón palpitar. Pensaba que quizá me iba morir, y le decía a Elvira, “Si me muero, tienes que continuar.” Me sentía hasta apenado de tanta gente que venía a saludar. Esos abrazos me llegaban tan profundos que a veces se me escurrían las lágrimas. Muy bonito fue y sigue siendo ver a la gente que nos sigue acompañando.

Yo, Elvira, veo que hemos conocido a tanta gente que conocía a Alex de quienes nosotros ni sabíamos. Siento un orgullo que Alex fuese tan querendón y amistoso con todas las personas.

Yo, Refugio, siento que lo justo sería que enjuiciaran y que despidieran a los asesinos de Alex y siento que quizá ya no se dará la justicia por la via formal. Lo único que nos queda es seguir conociendo quienes fueron los que lo mataron. Qué se conozcan sus caras.

Yo, Elvira, siento que se debe conocer quiénes son esos policías y sus razones exactas por haber matado a Alex.

Yo, Refugio, quiero ver un cambio en el proceso, aunque sea pequeño, para que se dé una investigación sincera sin prejuicios. ¿Por qué le dieron tanto tiro estando él en el suelo?

Yo, Elvira, quiero saber exactamente qué sucedió ese día y que sepa el público que clase de policías tenemos.

Yo, Refugio, doy gracias por seguir creyendo que todavía puede haber justicia y que no se nos asusten porque no sabemos cuándo va acabar ésto. No es por nosotros, es por Alex y por toda la comunidad para aprender a llevar la unión.

Yo, Elvira, les doy las gracias por ayudarnos y seguir con nosotros.

Por favor acompañenos para la Primera Conmemoración Anual Comunitaria de Alex Nieto, 21 de marzo de 2015
Inivitación en Facebook:
Alex Nieto’s One Year Community Commemoration, March 21, 2015

Nota: Este ensayo fue escrito con la asistencia de Adriana Camarena.

Refugio & Elvira keep a mural of the legal process at 23/Folsom (courtesy of Red Poppy Art House.)

Refugio & Elvira keep a mural of the legal process at 23/Folsom (courtesy of Red Poppy Art House.)

We are exceeding our goal to help the Nieto Family!!!

Update March 23, 2015

Dear Community!

We are over the moon with your show of support. On the evening of Alex’s One Year Community Commemoration, thanks to the very generous donation of a Bernal Heights neighbor we met our goal to fund the purchase and placement of Alex’s headstone. Any other funds donated above the goal amount will directly help the Nieto Family. We will be campaigning for a commemorative bench to be placed at the Alex Nieto Memorial Site (location where he was killed on Bernal Heights Park.)

Thank you so much!

Hello Community!

We are excited to announce we are halfway to our goal of $2,000!

The GoFundMe account has gained momentum in the past 24 hours!

Overnight we reached the $1,000 mark!

Thank you so much on behalf of the Justice and Amore for Alex Nieto Coalition and his parents.

We are a step closer to Alex’s headstone!

Donate at our GoFundMe site by clicking below:

Screen Shot 2015-03-21 at 8.57.00 AM

“Amor for Alex” Film Premiere and Lowrider Show from Ben Bac Sierra



Amor is absurd. To promote it as the base for a movement is to embrace insanity. Love is too passionate and caliente—a burning trash can in the middle of the night.

Amor leads to ashes.

From ashes I came, to ashes I will return, so why fear or negate my own dust? I was born into San Fran streets where the superheroes were not Batman or Wolverine. The bad-asses were the lowriders, the cockroaches who cruised las calles proclaiming through their dance—in the face of so much despair and desperation–“We exist!” No doubt about their powers.

They convinced me of what I wanted, so before a book, or colorful medal, or a degree were my goals, my mission was a hood classic: a Regal, a 64, another Regal, a 66, and the Monte Carlo Knight. These were more than cars. They were magical spaceships that transported me to the sublime state that only cholos y cholas treasure. While everything else is all fucked up outside, inside your ranfla, you hold dignity, the souldies blasting—dragging you down into the blues but at the same time exorcising you from many difficult demons. Everyone else is walking or riding around pissed off or confused, but you in your vain ass ruby red gangster-mobile are authentic and clear—‘cause you are laughing and crying at the same time:

As I sit here thinking of you, and of the wonderful love we once knew even though you’ve gone away, my heart has gone with you!

And if you hit the switches just right, you can unlock the key to the universe, what every single brown bandido dreams—that lowriding is about more than just flexing your muscles and mad-dogging homeys on the block—you wish love, that loco y loca amorwhere you aint got shit but a couple of forties and each other rolling not knowing where you’re going—and that is all you’ve ever needed and wanted in this vida loca that you have tattooed green all over your buffed out arms.

Genius: vida loca lowriding is the freedom they never taught you about in school.

This Saturday, March 21, check out the lowriders in a new light. Look into the grills and admire the eyes of those who have been targeted and discounted yet continue to live with class and pride, as an example for us all. They are our history and potential, these OG’s with their pinta records, and pinche jobs, and businesses, and familias, and overwhelming abundance of amor for our gente.

In unprecedented fashion and style, the lowrider community, hundreds of cars deep, will literally lead the procession across San Fran to the film premiere of “Amor for Alex,” a film dedicated to our fallen lowrider brother Alejandro Nieto, who was shot at 59 times and killed by the San Francisco Police Department for eating his lunch in a gentrified neighborhood. At 7:00 p.m. we combine Aztec danzantes, a singer, a rapper, poets, activist leaders, art, and films to inspire a new breed of street stars, Renaissance Homeboys and Homegirls dedicated to the craziest mission of all: community amor.

The New America: We choose to do it not because it is not crazy; we do it precisely because it is loco.

Alex Nieto’s One Year Community Commemoration March 21, 2015

Alex Nieto Flyer One Year_001Facebook invite: Alex Nieto’s One Year Community Commemoration, March 21, 2015

You are invited:

5pm Interfaith prayers with the Nieto Family
@Alex Nieto Memorial Site at Bernal Heights Park
Aztec Dancers – Catholic prayer – Buddhist chant

6pm Trail of Tears Procession. Bernal Heights Park→ Folsom Street→ 24th Street →Mission Street. We will lay flowers for the fallen to violence on our route. Bring your offerings.

7pm Film premiere of “Amor for Alex” with Nieto Family
@Mission Cultural Center for Latino Arts.

Please note that pre-film events will start simultaneously at 5pm at MCCLA. See specific Facebook event Amor for Alex film premiere for details