Letter to the Editor of Bernalwood

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Note: This letter to the editor was sent by Maria Villalta to the Bernalwood editor in response to his article “Supervisor Campos Announces Support for Permanent Alex Nieto Memorial on Bernal Hill.” We invite supporters to leave a comment in favor of the permanent memorial as well, although it currently seems like Mr. Lappin is not approving nor publishing those comments sent by supporters of the Nieto Family.

To: Mr. Lappin, editor of Bernalwood
bernalwood@gmail.com

Dear Mr. Lappin,

My name is Maria Villalta, I was a friend of Alex Nieto and I am a member of the Justice and Love for Alex Nieto Coalition. I am responding to your post titled “Supervisor Campos Announces Support for Permanent Alex Nieto Memorial on Bernal Hill.” I am surprised at the tone of your article about the Nieto Family’s request for a permanent memorial for their son Alex Nieto on Bernal Heights. The request for a permanent memorial has been a long standing request of the family since the very early moments after his death, and I would assume that having a permanent memorial would be a proposal supported by the Bernal Heights neighbors who for two years and a half have kindly and generously supported the existing community memorial.

Soon after Alex’s death, his family, neighbors and community began keeping a memorial and altar for him at the site of his killing. Refugio Nieto maintains the altar daily on Bernal Heights along with anonymous community members who leave offerings of love and respect towards Alex. On the 21st of every month the community joins Elvira and Refugio at the altar, in prayer and celebration of Alex’s life. You are all invited to this upcoming month celebration of Alex’s life on Wednesday September 21st, 2016 at 6pm.

Establishing a memorial altar at sites of tragedy is a sacred tradition of Latino communities with deep ancestral and spiritual roots. An altar is a sacred place for sacrifices and gifts offered up to God, Our Creator. An altar is a place to show love towards our deceased. Memorials are official forms of altars; an important part of everyday American culture as well. Memorials allow people to remember a deceased loved one or an important public figure or event. The killing of Alex Nieto is now a historic event of the City that sparked a historic Latino social justice movement for love and justice over the senseless, avoidable and brutal killing of a young community member by the San Francisco Police Department.

As a San Francisco native I can tell you that many other native residents feel that Alex Nieto, a young, joyful, working class, student, and community organizer represents the spirit of the Latino Mission and Bernal Heights; a representation of the beautiful brown and black people that used to walk through these neighborhoods without questioning their safety or belonging to that land. The altar on the hill represents the ultimate sacrifice; a good life was lost at the hands of police. Alex was well known in the community, because of his dedicated community service since he was a youth. The brutal killing of Alex caused a lot of pain in our communities in Bernal and the Mission District and we should be allowed to mourn and uplift our beloved dead one.

In memory of Alex Nieto and in support of his parent’s demand posed to the Board of Supervisors this past September 13th, I am asking their Bernal Heights neighbors to join us in demanding the Board of Supervisors to issue a resolution for a permanent altar and memorial in his honor. To begin mending broken trust with the Nieto Family and their community, the very minimum the Mayor and Board of Supervisors could do is to provide the permits and resources to establish a permanent memorial for Alex Nieto on the hill. Have it be an act of restoration of all the trauma SFPD has caused the brown and black communities decade after decade. Let it be a protected space were we can safely grieve and be assured that any vandalism to the site will be prosecuted. We have asked that the City and County of San Francisco also pay for this memorial as it paid for the bullets that killed Alex. Whichever reading of the facts you wish to have and whichever stance you may have on a justice system that systematically sides with police, Alex Nieto’s killing by SFPD caused great harm in our Latino community and that harm needs to be mended by an act of restoration by the City. A memorial could mark a new beginning in which deathly use of force by SFPD is the last resort and sanctity of life the first principle of its police force.

On September 13th, your neighbors Elvira and Refugio Nieto petitioned the Supervisors of San Francisco to support a permanent memorial for their son Alex Nieto. We were accompanied in our request by Justice for Amilcar Perez Lopez, Justice for Luis Góngora Pat, Justice for Mario Woods Coalition, Compañeros del Barrio, the Church of St. John Coltrane, La Raza Students Organization in Hastings Law School, District Candidate Isawari España, Our Mission No Eviction, the Cultural Action Network, San Franciscans for Police Accountability, Poor Magazine, and the Manilatown Heritage Foundation, alongside many individual supporters who showed up for the Nieto Family at the press conference prior to our public comment petition.

We invite you to support our demand to the Board of Supervisors to restore harm caused by this City to Alex Nieto, his family and our Latino community with a permanent memorial at the site of the ongoing community memorial. The Nietos are considering a commemorative bench would be nice and plaque, but with our request approved we will welcome community input around a proposed memorial.

A permanent altar and memorial gives old school San Franciscans hope: Hope that the City we love and hold dearly to our hearts will attempt to restore our broken relationships with authorities and allow family, friends and the community to know about their past and design a better future together. According to Tyron Edwards, “Quiet and sincere sympathy is often the most welcome and efficient consolation to the afflicted.”

Thank you,
María Villalta
A friend of Alex Nieto, San Franciscan native, and member of the Justice & Love for Alex Nieto Coalition

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Supervisors commit to an ordinance for a permanent Alex Nieto memorial! How supporters can help…

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Press conference and rally

September 13, 2016. City Hall, San Francisco, CA.-

Refugio and Elvira Nieto held a press conference outside City Hall to demand from the Board of Supervisors a permanent memorial on Bernal Heights for Alex Nieto.  In response, Supervisors Avalos and Campos expressed their commitments to support a resolution to the Board of Supervisors for a permanent memorial for Alex Nieto (see Live Videos on Justice 4 Alex Nieto Facebook group.) Danzantes opened the press conference with a prayer and friendship dance.

Specific statements of support were made by Ben Bac Sierra, María Villalta and Oscar Salinas members of the Justice & Love for Alex Nieto Coalition, Father Richard Smith of Justice for Amilcar Perez Lopez, Maria Cristina Gutierrez for Black and Brown Unity as part Compañeros del Barrio and Justice for Mario Woods Coalition, Archbishop King of the St. John Coltrane Church, United Playaz, Mayra Hernandez Co-Chair of La Raza in Hastings Law School, Luis Poot Pat of Justice for Luis Góngora Pat, Tony Serrano Garcia of Justice for Yanira Serrano Garcia, Isawari España, Roberto Hernandez from Our Mission No Eviction, and Rae from Cultural Action Network. Other groups in attendance and support included San Franciscans for Police Accountability, Prensa Pobre, and the Manilatown Heritage Foundation, alongside individual supporters who showed up for the Nieto Family.

Family addresses Board of Supervisors

After the press conference, supporters waited inside City Hall to provide public comment at the regular Board of Supervisors meeting. Public comment did not open until around 8 o’clock. Despite the long wait, many supporters remained to accompany the Nietos to demand a permanent Alex Nieto memorial.

Refugio Nieto addressed the BOS to explain how he goes everyday to pray an Our Father for Alex Nieto at the site of his killing, but is sometimes incapable of even saying a prayer because he might find the altar vandalized and in need of repair. He spoke of the cruelty of having to face such acts of hate, but also spoke of the many acts of care and love of others who made offerings to the altar. Elvira Nieto spoke to the Supervisors of her son, who was a good son, a good worker and student, who hoped to have children of his own one day, and asked for a permanent space to grieve and set up offerings. Both parents  spoke of the loss and the fact that the City had so far failed to give any adequate response for the killing of their son, Alex.

About a dozen supporters supported the Nietos by asking the Supervisors to recognize that harm had been done to the Nieto Family and the Latino community; that altars carried cultural significance to the Latino community; that the request for a permanent and protected altar and memorial was a most basic act of restoration; that Alex’s death was tied to gentrification policies of the City that allow newcomers to arrive in droves to the Mission without understanding the cultural differences and their privileges in the communities of color they come to displace and inhabit; that there has been no change in policing policies enacted; and that the memorial could stand to symbolize a break with the past and new era in which police end their brutal use of force against black and brown people of the City.

Supervisors Avalos and Campos commit to support an ordinance

In chambers, Supervisor John Avalos committed to drafting an ORDINANCE ordering a permanent memorial for Alex Nieto. Supervisor David Campos committed to be in support. While a resolution would only be a recommendation from the Board of Supervisors, an ORDINANCE would be a law ordering the memorial to be established. This was an important day for the Nietos and the justice & love for Alex Nieto movement.

Supervisor Avalos promised to draft and submit an ordinance to the Board of Supervisors within the next two weeks. In other words, by Tuesday September 27th.

How supporters can help:

Once Supervisor Avalos fulfills his promise and submits the ordinance to the BOS, we request that supporter:

  • Show up again for public comment at the Board of Supervisors to express themselves in favor of the ordinance.
  • Organize with their coalitions to have a lobbying day at City Hall in support of the permanent Alex Nieto Memorial and Altar.
  • Call their district supervisor and demand their support for the ordinance. Below is the list of supervisors and their office numbers and emails.
John Avalos John Avalos
District 11
(415) 554-6975 – Voice
(415) 554-6979 – Fax

John.Avalos@sfgov.org

David Campos David Campos
District 9
(415) 554-5144 – voice
(415) 554-6255 – fax

David.Campos@sfgov.org

Malia Cohen Malia Cohen
District 10
(415) 554-7670 – Voice
(415) 554-7674 – Fax

Malia.Cohen@sfgov.org

London Breed London Breed
District 5
(415) 554-7630 – Voice
(415) 554-7634 – Fax

London.Breed@sfgov.org

Aaron Peskin Aaron Peskin
District 3
(415) 554-7450 – Voice
(415) 554-7454

Aaron.Peskin@sfgov.org

Jane KIm Jane Kim
District 6
(415) 554-7970 – Voice
(415) 554-7974 – Fax

Jane.Kim@sfgov.org

Eric Mar Eric Mar
District 1
(415) 554-7410 – Voice
(415) 554-7415 – Fax

Eric.L.Mar@sfgov.org

Mark Ferrall Mark Farrell
District 2
(415) 554-7752 – Voice
(415) 554-7843 – Fax

Mark.Farrell@sfgov.org

Scott Wienter Scott Wiener
District 8
(415) 554-6968 – Voice
(415) 554-6909 – Fax

Scott.W

Norman Yee Norman Yee
District 7
(415) 554-6516 – Voice
(415) 554-6546 – Fax

Norman.Yee@

Thank you ! We’re going to make the permanent Alex Nieto Memorial and Altar a reality!

Maria Villalta: A permanent altar and memorial for Alex Nieto would be an act of restoration from the City

Refugio & Elvira work tirelessly to maintain a memorial to their son at the site of his killing.

My name is Maria Villalta, I was a friend of Alex Nieto and I am a member of the Justice and Love for Alex Nieto Coalition.

For two and a half years, Alex Nieto’s family has maintained a memorial and altar on Bernal Heights at the site of his killing. Refugio keeps the altar along with anonymous community members who leave offerings of love and respect towards Alex. On the 21st of every month the community joins Elvira and Refugio at the altar, in prayer and celebration of Alex’s life

Establishing a memorial altar at sites of tragedy is a sacred tradition of Latino communities with deep ancestral and spiritual roots. An altar is a sacred place for sacrifices and gifts offered up to God, Our Creator. It is a place to show love towards our deceased. Memorials are official forms of altars; an important part of everyday American culture. Memorials allow people to remember a deceased loved one, an important public figure, or event. The killing of Alex Nieto is now a historic event of the City that sparked a historic Latino social justice movement for love and justice over the senseless, avoidable and brutal killing of a young community member by the San Francisco Police Department.

As a San Francisco native I can tell you that many other native residents feel that Alex Nieto, a young, joyful, working class, student, and community organizer represents the spirit of the Latino Mission and Bernal Heights; a representation of the beautiful brown and black people that used to walk through these neighborhoods without questioning their safety or belonging to that land. The altar on the hill represents the ultimate sacrifice; a good life was lost at the hands of police. The brutal killing of Alex caused a lot of pain in our communities and we should be allowed to mourn and uplift our beloved dead.

In memory of Alex Nieto, I stand here side by side with the Nietos to demand that the Board of Supervisors issue a resolution for a permanent altar and memorial in his honor. To begin mending broken trust with the Nieto Family and their community, the very minimum the Mayor and Board of Supervisors could do is to provide the permits and resources to establish a permanent memorial for Alex Nieto on the hill. Have it be an act of restoration of all the trauma SFPD has caused the brown and black communities decade after decade. Let it be a protected space were we can safely grieve and be assured that any vandalism to the site will be prosecuted. I ask that the City and County of San Francisco also pay for this memorial as it paid for the bullets that killed Alex. A memorial could mark a new beginning in which deathly use of force by SFPD is the last resort and sanctity of life the first principle of its police force.

A permanent altar and memorial gives old school San Franciscans hope. Hope that the City we love and hold dearly to our hearts will attempt to restore our broken relationship and allow family, friends and the community to know about their past and design a better future together. According to Tyron Edwards, “Quiet and sincere sympathy is often the most welcome and efficient consolation to the afflicted.”

Supervisors of San Francisco, will you accept our invitation and support our demand to restore harm caused by this City to Alex Nieto, his family and our Latino community?

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Ben Bac Sierra: A BOS resolution to establish a permanent memorial in honor of Alex Nieto, unlawfully killed by SFPD

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WHY AN ALEX NIETO MEMORIAL?

In order to honor Alex Nieto, a permanent memorial will be established at Bernal Hill Park, the place where he was unlawfully killed by the SFPD.

Through no fault of his own, Alex Nieto, a 28 year old full-time student and security guard who had never been arrested in his life, was shot at fifty nine times and killed by SFPD officers. Even though there were many witnesses that claimed Alex had done nothing wrong and was just peacefully eating his burrito, the San Francisco District Attorney did not pursue criminal charges against officers. Then in a civil trial that clearly evidenced the lies, corruption, and cover-up surrounding Alex’s murder, the SFPD killers were released of liability by a mostly white jury that was comprised of no Latinos or African-Americans.

Note the undisputed facts that shame San Francisco:

  • Officer Schiff, the rookie officer who first began shooting, stated in open court that Alex he saw Alex’s forehead scrunch up. He also stated he made eye contact with Alex’s “angry eyes.” It was proven that Alex Nieto was wearing a baseball hat and sunglasses when he was killed. This was confirmed by a large hole defect in the hat that aligned with the shot in Alex’s head. Alex’s brain matter was found in the hat. Officer Schiff blatantly lied.
  • A disinterested witness who saw the police kill Alex asserts that Alex was casually walking down the hill with his hands in his pockets when police officers yelled “Stop” at Alex and then immediately began firing two volleys of shots at him, killing him.
  • Four witnesses claim that they heard the police shots fired and clearly distinguished two volleys, one volley and then a ten second pause followed by one longer and more intense volley of bullets. This pause would clearly indicate that the killing of Alex Nieto was unlawful. The police officers could not have been under a constant threat as they claim if they waited ten seconds in between volleys and then continued firing again.
  • When the criminal investigators arrived after the killing and took pictures of the scene, the taser was turned off. There is absolutely no way that this taser could have emitted a red laser beam or ejected taser wires. The police officers are clearly lying about the red laser beam that they say they saw that justified them shooting. The public should also question whether Alex Nieto ever exposed any taser.
  • Alex Nieto sustains all the fatal wounds described above, including shots to his head, lung, spine, wrist, and forearm. It could simply not be possible that Alex Nieto could have continued to hold a taser in this condition, as the police officers claim. There are no pictures of Alex holding any taser or of him with his hands and arms extended downhill.
  • Most importantly, most convincingly, ALEX NIETO’S WRIST BONE IS FOUND IN HIS LEFT JACKET POCKET. There is absolutely no explanation for how that bone could have been in his jacket except, as the first-hand witness claims, Alex Nieto’s hand was in his pocket, not pointing a taser, while Alex Nieto was being killed by the police. This, of course, totally refutes the police narrative.
  • After the case, on social media Officer Morse, one of the killers of Alex Nieto, threatened the Nieto family.
  • If you still have questions about the case, visit the following site for accurate information.

In order to begin repairing broken ties with the community, the SF Board of Supervisors can stand with the people against corruption and lies. They can take a stand for human rights and establish this memorial dedicated to Alex so that the dismantling of crooked power can finally begin. The entire SF Board of Supervisors can join justice for posterity purposes, for amor.

 

Parents Demand a Permanent Memorial for Alex Nieto on Bernal Heights

2016-4-21-alex-altar

Tue. Sep. 13th 1pm front of City Hall. Press conference followed by rally and public commentary to BOS

Elvira and Refugio Nieto and the Justice & Love for Alex Nieto coalition are formulating a demand to the Board of Supervisors to support establishing a permanent memorial for Alex Nieto at the site of his killing on Bernal Heights. The family is asking for the memorial as a minimal gesture of acknowledgement of the senseless and brutal killing of their beloved son and for restoration by the City of the harm caused by SFPD to Alex Nieto and his family and community.

“For two years and a half, Alex Nieto’s family and community members have maintained a memorial and altar for him at the site of his killing. Establishing memorial altars at sites of tragedy is a sacred tradition of Latino communities with deep ancestral and spiritual roots. If the City wants to begin mending broken trust with the Nieto Family and their community, the very minimum the Mayor and Supervisors could do is to provide the permits and resources to establish a permanent memorial for Alex Nieto on the hill”, says coalition member María Villalta.

Photo album of the Community Altar & Memorial for Alex Nieto since March 2014
https://flic.kr/s/aHsk3btZep

Adriana Camarena another coalition member states, “The killing of Alex Nieto is in itself now a historic event of the City, which spurred a historic Latino social justice movement of the City. Rather than continue to ignore its significance, the Board of Supervisors has an opportunity to acknowledge the harm done to the Latino community. With a permanent Alex Nieto Memorial the City can publicly grieve the loss of life at the hands of police officers. A memorial could mark a new beginning in which deathly use of force by SFPD is the last resort and sanctity of life, particularly of black and brown people, the first priority.”

Responding to the fact that the Nieto family lost the civil trial against the City in March 2016, Ben Bac Sierra, member of the Justice & Love for Alex Nieto Coalition, said “An unbiased analysis of the facts revealed at the civil trial shows that SFPD officers racially profiled and unlawfully killed Alex Nieto for wearing a 49ers jacket while holding a burrito and walking in his own neighborhood park.” Please click here for a full statement by Ben Bac Sierra about the unlawful killing of Alex Nieto. For further information about the Trial click here.

Oscar Salinas, another member of the Justice & Love for Alex Nieto Coalition, who like Alex Nieto, María Villalta and Ben Bac Sierra was born and bred in the Mission and Bernal Heights, gave further context to the demand, “Everyone knows that the death of Alex Nieto and gentrification are tied together, because newcomers such as those who called 911 against Alex, have no sense of respect for established communities. We are asking the City to dedicate a tiny piece of land, sacred now to Latinos in San Francisco, to commemorate and honor a native son of the City, who was brutally killed by its officers. Consider our humble demand to the City by contrast to the massive real estate demands made by developers, like the Nick Podell and his Beast on Bryant. The Latino community is clamoring for respect and action from the Board of Supervisors to end the forced displacement of the native sons and daughters of the Mission and Bernal Heights neighborhoods, and honor Alex Nieto who was killed in the context of irresponsible gentrification policies.”

The Nieto family and supporters are asking the Board of Supervisors to issue a resolution and ordinance to establish a permanent memorial on Bernal Heights Park with official city permits and resources. The Coalition will also explore the possibility of renaming the park, The Alex Nieto Memorial Park.

Facebook link: https://www.facebook.com/events/1112752778807233/

#Justice4AlexNieto

#AmorPorAlex

#EndPoliceImpunity

 

Your public comment is key! Monday 6/20: Support Avalos Resolution to reserve SFPD budget until reforms happen!

SFPD budget reserve

Your public comment on Monday is key to secure SFPD accountability and transparency reforms!

Monday is the day for public comment on the city budget. We need you to come speak in favor of Supervisor Avalos’ proposal to hold $200 million of the Police Department’s budget in reserve, only to be released by the Board of Supervisors if SFPD shows that it has adequately implemented reforms around use-of-force.

Where: Board of Supervisors chambers, City Hall room 250.

When: Starts at 10am. Doors open at 9:30. It’s a first come, first served process.

What: Proposal to reserve SFPD budget in order to secure SFPD reforms

Facebook event link!

The budget reserve proposal introduced by Supervisor Avalos will require SFPD, among other things, to revise its use of force policy to mandate de-escalation and the use of the minimal amount of force necessary; adopt a Crisis Intervention Team model of responding to individuals in behavior crisis; adopt a more rigorous policy for intervening with problem officers and supervisors; and establish a more rigorous policy for disciplining officers for racial profiling.

The authors of the proposal—representing the families of the victims of police violence, religious leaders, and advocacy groups—include Justice & Love for Alex Nieto, Justice for Amilcar Perez-Lopez, Justice & Honor for Luis Góngora Pat, Faith in Action, the National Lawyers Guild, San Franciscans for Police Accountability, and Idriss Stelley Foundation.

RESOLUTION

Resolution draft on SCRIBD here.

San Francisco Police Reform – Budget Reserve Proposal

Draft 6/15/2016

Supervisor Avalos proposes placing $200 million of the SFPD budget on Board of Supervisors’ Reserve pending the following actions being taken by the Department and the Police Commission. The Controller will work with the Department to evaluate compliance and to provide quarterly reports to the Board who would need to vote to release the funds placed on reserve.

SFPD Reform Initiatives:

  1. Use of Force reform: Adopt and operationalize the community stakeholder group’s amendments to “Department General Order 5.01, Use of Force – version 2,” which includes the following elements:
  • requires the use of de-escalation techniques, and
  • use of the “minimal” force necessary as opposed to “reasonable” force

Metrics:

  • Publish quarterly reports on arrests and Use of Force, including demographic data as described in Admin Code Chapter 96A and the number of incidents that resulted in death or injury to the officer or suspect.
  1. Crisis Intervention Team: Adopt a Department General Order to establish and operationalize the Crisis Intervention Team model of responding to individuals in behavioral crisis.

 

Metrics:

  • Number of CIT and Advanced CIT-certified officers.
  • Number of shifts per district station where a CIT-certified officer was on duty and available for dispatch.
  • Data on incidents where DEM dispatchers determined involved a person in behavioral crisis, including at a minimum:

–  a) the number and location of calls for service involving mentally ill or individuals with disabilities in crisis; b) the type of response (e.g. Advanced CIT officer, CIT certified officer, non-CIT officer, CIT and mental health professional); c) the disposition of the call (arrest, 5150 detention, no police action, referral for services); d) whether or not force was used; e) injuries (officer, detainee, other); f) complaints, commendations and/or legal actions arising from the incident); g) presence of weapons on the part of individual, including type of weapon.

 

  1. Early Intervention System reform: Adopt a more rigorous policy for intervening with officers identified by the Early Intervention System and for the supervisors of officers identified by the EIS:
  • Establish objective thresholds for the number and type of EIS Alerts for an officer that lead to training/mentoring and reassignment.
  • Establish a process for analyzing SFPD supervisors with officers under their command with excessive EIS Alerts. Establish objective thresholds for these supervisors that lead to training/mentoring and reassignment.

 

Metrics:

  • Publish the quarterly reports and conduct the quarterly EIS meetings as described in DGO 3.19.
  1. Strengthen discipline for incidents of racial profiling: Establish a more rigorous policy for disciplining officers for sustained OCC complaints related to racial profiling and failure to record the required demographic data.
  • Establish a disciplinary process for sustained OCC complaints against plainclothes officers who make traffic stops.
  • Establish a disciplinary process for other sustained OCC complaints in contexts normally associated with racial profiling.
  • Establish a disciplinary process for officers who fail to record demographic data for encounters, arrests, and use of force.

 

Metrics:

  • Number of relevant OCC complaints filed and sustained, and a description of disciplinary actions taken.

 

  1. Establish more objective processes for background investigations, hiring, and promotion.
  • For lateral hires, require disclosure of applicants’ history of firearm discharges, use of force incidents, and misconduct complaints.

The People Fired SFPD Chief Suhr by Ben Bac Sierra

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The corrupt spirit of the San Francisco Police Department has been smashed.

It was not the politicians who fired the chief. It was not the billionaires that helped the poor. It was not the new techie hipsters that led us with their innovation.

The people, the locos y locas, the roots fired the chief of police of the richest city on planet earth.

It was not the policies that reformed the police department; it was the movement on the streets.

It was not the goodness of their hearts that made them change their minds; it was the blood on the concrete.

RIP Jessica Nelson. RIP Alex Nieto. RIP Mario Woods. RIP Amilcar Perez Lopez. RIP Luis Gongora. RIP O’Shaine Evans.

There are more, too many more names to grieve. And mourn we must. And continue we must. There is only one way—not forward, but upward. For all of us.

Some may ask what does the firing mean, and I will respond, as always: Spirit Matters Most.

Now that the chief of police has been disgraced, all the police officers have been humiliated and humbled, which is good for them. Let them know how we constantly feel walking down the block, sitting in the classroom, and trying to just live our lives. Now they will know they are not the gods they pretend to be. Now they know the power of the people.

A Black man has replaced ex-chief Suhr. Allow the racist police to swallow that symbol. After having been so blatant with their bigotry, they must now accept orders from a person of color, from the type of person who they constantly kill. Or they must quit. Or stay and be confused and angry and frustrated and doubtful and stressed. Their world has turned upside down. The old guard has fallen.

For us, we can believe. It is a hard thing to hold faith, to believe in the invisible, the spirit of humans in their finest form. Believe we can. For with nothing except our amor and action, we won the battle. With nothing but shouts on the streets, we beat the batons and guns. With the faith of locura, total illogic, we proved our genius over their books and intellectual or economic equations.

A special grito to Amor for Alex Nieto, The Frisco Five, The Mario Woods Coalition, and all those grunts who created and held the frontline.

Con Safos.

Benjamin Bac Sierra

Originally published on Ben’s blog, here.

Recommended reading: Coalitions unite to demand reforms to end police impunity!

Coalitions unite to demand an end to Police Impunity!

IMAGE END POLICE IMPUNITY_001

Coalitions unite to demand an end to Police Impunity!

Last updated: 5/24/2016

On the 2nd Anniversary of the killing of Alex Nieto by SFPD (March 21, 2016), the Justice & Love for Alex Nieto Coalition set forth a list of demands to end police impunity. Since then, these demands have been taken up in discussions by a broader coalition of justice groups including Justice & Love for Alex Nieto, Justice for Mario Woods, Justice for Amilcar Perez Lopez, and Honor & Justice for Luis Góngora Pat. The Idriss Stelley Foundation also endorses these demands.

Based on our ongoing conversations, we have adapted these demands in the following manner. Specific Coalitions have additional demands that the mayor should address. Initially, therefore,

We demand that Mayor Ed Lee:

Fire Chief Suhr – A first and old demand at last met on May 19, 2016.

  • Despite the hunger strike of the #Frisco5 calling for Mayor Ed Lee to #FireChiefSuhr, despite the fact that this demand became the battle cry of the #Frisco500 to 5000 that took City Hall on a weekend in May 7th ending in 33 arrests, it was the loss of the life of twenty-seven year old Jessica Williams (#SayHerName) to a police bullet on Thursday May 19th 9:45am in the Bayview district (on the birthday of Malcolm X) that finally forced Ed Lee to face-up to the people’s anger and ask Chief Greg Suhr to resign.
  • Jessica Nelson was the 22nd fatality under the command of Suhr, the twelfth since 2014, all these fatalities are unaccountable murders (found to be within policy, the latest shootings since 2015 still under review).

Carry out acts of restoration

  • Establish a permanent memorial for Alex Nieto, in collaboration with Elvira and Refugio Nieto at the site where their son was killed in Bernal Heights Park, and where community members have maintained a memorial for two years, as a gesture towards restoring community relations.
  • Establish a permanent memorial for Luis Demetrio Góngora Pat, in collaboration with his family in San Francisco.
  • Inquire of other families who have lost loved ones to an officer-involved shooting if they too would like a permanent memorial, and take actions to create such a memorial.
  • Provide immediate financial relief and specialized services to the families victimized by officer-involved shootings and other conduct resulting in trauma or injury since at least 2014. (Edited by request of survivors of police behavior that caused harm.)

Enforce demand for a fair and independent federal investigation into salient officer-involved shootings since 2014:

  • Enforce the January 26, 2016 Board of Supervisor’s resolution that “requests the United States Department of Justice to undertake independent investigation of the shootings of Alex Nieto, Amilcar Lopez-Perez (sic), and Mario Woods and the process by which the SFPD investigates use of force incidents” by establishing an action plan with the DOJ’s Civil Rights Division for an independent federal investigation into those salient cases, including SFPD’s investigation of each case.
  • At this juncture, we demand that said DOJ investigation include all officer-involved shootings since 2014 in which complaints were filed against SFPD or the City, including the killing of Luis Demetrio Góngora Pat on April 7, 2016 and the twenty-seven year old woman murdered by SFPD today.

End the culture of impunity in SFPD:

  • Order the interim Chief of Police to issue bulletins that make alternatives to lethal use of force by SFPD officers unequivocally mandatory in volatile or potentially volatile situations.
  • Order the interim Chief of Police to issue bulletins that make the sanctity of life a ruling principle in all use of force by SFPD officers.
  • Ensure adequate training for SFPD officers in line with our demands.
  • Integrate community members into crisis intervention teams and training so that they can respond with SFPD officers to volatile or potentially volatile situations to participate in mandatory deescalation of conflict.

Support deep structural reform to raise SFPD accountability:

Alongside our demands to the Mayor, we are currently working with Supervisor John Avalos on developing a package of reform initiatives to raise SFPD accountability including. We demand that the Mayor, the Police Commission, and SFPD support our legislative package of reform once presented to the appropriate committee within the Board of Supervisors, and support implementation of any such reforms.

Deep structural reforms demanded of BOS:

We demand that the BOS take action to end police impunity through a package of legislative reforms that should include:

  • Modify legislation (to override the current SFPD General Order) that makes alternatives to lethal use of force by SFPD officers unequivocally mandatory with the aim of preserving life of civilians even in volatile or potentially volatile situations;
  • Radically increase transparency of the SFPD by requiring public and online permanent record keeping of complaints and incidents of use of force by officers, in line with best open government practices and in consideration of the Leno Bill SB1286;
  • Establish a Special Prosecutor’s Office that is a true and autonomous investigative and prosecutorial body in cases involving police misconduct including officer-involved shootings;
  • Establish an elected Civilian Police Commission that will substitute the current Police Commission (a proposal of Idriss Stelley Foundation);
  • Require peer review processes in the Office of Medical Examiner when facing an officer involved shooting;
  • Provide specialized victims services and financial relief for family and community members affected by a lethal use of force by officers, taking into consideration cultural, linguistic, and other special needs; and
  • Increase availability of witness protection programs and options in officer involved shootings, taking into consideration cultural, linguistic, and other special needs; and
  • Provide adequate training for SFPD officers derived from implementation of reforms, including adequate deescalation and crisis intervention training.

We’re just getting started.

#EndPoliceImpunity

Democracy Now covers SFPD’s killing of Alex Nieto, Mario Woods, Amilcar Perez-Lopez, and Luis Góngora in a changing San Francisco

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Thanks to NYShutItDown protesters in New York City who called out for Justice 4 Alex Nieto, a producer of Democracy Now caught wind of the Alex Nieto shooting in San Francisco. #SFCrushOnNY #EndPoliceImpunity. During Amy Goodman’s tour in San Francisco in April 12th, the Democracy Now team invited coalition member Adriana Camarena to speak on the case of Alex Nieto and the other recent killings, alongside award winning writer Rebecca Solnit, whose piece in The Guardian “Death by Gentrification – The killing that shamed San Francisco” brought international awareness to the killing spree by police in the last few years. Below are Parts 1 and 2 of the Interviews.

Part 1

http://www.democracynow.org/embed/story/2016/4/12/death_by_gentrification_alex_nieto_killed

We look at the case of Alex Nieto, a 28-year-old Latino man fatally shot by San Francisco police in March 2014. The police officers accused in the killing claimed that Nieto pointed a stun gun at them, which they mistook for a pistol. Officers Richard Schiff, Nathan Chew, Roger Morse and Lt. Jason Sawyer fired dozens of shots at Nieto. According to the medical examiner, he was hit by at least 10 bullets. Last month, a jury unanimously found that the police did not use excessive force in responding to Nieto. Nieto’s family had filed a federal wrongful death civil lawsuit in August 2014, arguing in court that Nieto did not act aggressively and was carrying the weapon for his job as a security guard. We speak with Adriana Camarena, a writer, community advocate and co-founder of the Justice for Alex Nieto Coalition; and author Rebecca Solnit, who wrote a piece for The Guardian headlined “Death by gentrification: the killing that shamed San Francisco.” Camarena also talks about last week’s San Francisco police killing of a homeless man, Luis Gongora, within 30 seconds of their arrival.

Part 2

http://www.democracynow.org/embed/story/2016/4/12/death_by_gentrification_in_sf_part

We are on the road in San Francisco, as we continue our conversation about the 2014 police killing of Alex Nieto and a slew of other police killings—Mario Woods, Amilcar Pérez-López and now Luis Gongora. Three of four of these killings happened in San Francisco’s rapidly gentrifying neighborhoods, the Mission District and Bernal Heights. We speak about the link between these police killings and gentrification in San Francisco, with author Rebecca Solnit and community organizer Adriana Camarena.

To SF Mag: We request a public apology and retraction of article by Eskenazi

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On March 26th, Adriana Camarena, coalition member, sent the following letter by email to Mr. Joe Eskenazi (jeskenazi@modernluxury.com) with copy to San Francisco Magazine’s (SF Mag) letters email box (letterssf@sanfranmag.com) in response to Eskenazi’s article titled “Alex Nieto Was Not Killed by Gentrification-It Was Worse Than That.”

Today, March 28th, we have sent a copy to the Jon Steinberg, Editor-in-Chief of SF Mag jsteinberg@modernluxury.com requesting a public apology and retraction of the article. Copy also to Twitter handles: @sanfranmag @EskSF and @jonsteinberg31

Email Letter to Mr. Joe Eskenazi, Subject: On your SF mag piece about Alex Nieto

Hi Mr. Eskenazi,

I am writing in response to your article titled “Alex Nieto Was Not Killed by Gentrification-It Was Worse Than That.”

Your article is by its own terms a reactionary response to the phrase “death by gentrification” used [in the title of the article written] by Rebecca Solnit**, and not actually about the facts of the case of the shooting of Alex Nieto by four SFPD officers on March 21, 2014. The facts relevant to the shooting (as both parties saw them) were clearly presented at the trial of Refugio and Elvira Nieto v Ofcs Richard Schiff, Jason Sawyer, Roger Morse, and Nate Chew and the City & County of San Francisco for the civil rights violations of their son Alex. The Trial took place from March 1-10th, nearly two years after his death, and if you had been journalistically inclined to do so, you could have attended and heard the facts for yourself. I mention this because the second phrase in the title of your article “…-It Was Worse Than That” leads into a series of claims about Alex Nieto’s mental health as central to an understanding of this case, when those facts were deemed irrelevant.

Had you been at trial or following the case at all or really cared about Alex’s “unnecessary death” to use your own words, you would know that Alex Nieto’s mental health records were not discussed at all at the Trial because in pre-trial hearings after considering arguments from both parties, federal civil Judge Cousins decided that those records were *not* relevant to the shooting, and could be highly prejudicial to the jury in looking at the facts. In other words, the record you mention in your article from years back could unnecessarily taint the jury’s opinion of the victim, rather than focus on the facts relevant to the shooting, which remains the matter at hand.

Because you claim to be a journalist, it behooves you to understand why those facts were not relevant, and I believe you should have attempted this before writing about Alex’s mental health with such certainty. Had you had the journalistic integrity to research and question your sources, you would have realized that you basically quoted from the police narrative of events fed by SFPD and the City officials to the media after Alex’s death, then again after the Medical Examiner report was issued 5 months later, then after the D.A. decided not to criminally charge the officers, then after the court ordered the names of the officers involved to be revealed 9 months later, and then after SFPD cleared its officers of committing murder. The narrative propagated by police sought from the start to drill into the public imagination that Alex Nieto was a person worth killing. We often refer to this technique used by police department spokespeople after an office-involved shooting as “character assassination” of the victim. Clearly, it worked on you.

The police narrative* version of Alex Nieto has and will always be a contested version. The narrative that you choose to propagate is the police version of who was Alex Nieto based on a mental health crisis in his life. The mental health record from 2011 was not deemed relevant to the shooting and not allowed into evidence, because 3 years had passed in which the crisis transpired without further incident. In regards to his mental health, it would be most relevant to ask who was Alex Nieto to people who knew him well or on a daily basis since he received treatment in 2011. In that case, you could have chosen to ask his employers, friends, his supervisor while he was a juvenile probation officer intern, his parents, his girlfriend, and community advocates who knew him and his conduct in the years after that oft quoted mental health incident by police. But in any case, those opinions like the 2011 mental health record were not relevant to the shooting either because police responding to the hill that day had no idea who was the man described in the dispatch call.

But here is a fact on record: No threat was ever reported in the 911 Call. The 911 caller Justin Fritz testified that he never saw Alex Nieto doing anything threatening, neither did his partner Tim Isgitt. Isgitt was concerned and anxious about a guy who they thought had a gun at his hip, but who in the words of Fritz was only eating sunflower seeds or chips. Robin Bullard who was the last to walk past him before he was killed testified that Alex did not seem threatening to him, he was even curious about the weapon at his hip, but in the end, Bullard described him as “just a guy.” The eyewitness to the shooting Antonio Theodore said Alex was casually walking down the hill, unaware police were looking for him, and that when they encountered him he had his hands in his pockets before he was gunned down. But you do know many of these facts, because I’m repeating things already covered in Rebecca Solnit’s article.

In the end, I have to conclude that you wrote this article as a die-hard defender of gentrification, going so far as attacking a world renown literary writer and journalist by piggie-backing on her piece and opinion on a local police brutality case in the context of a housing crisis in the City. Rather than actually doing research yourself, you question Rebecca Solnit’s journalistic integrity without reason and should be sued for libel. All her facts about the case are 100% correct. I should know this, since I was at the trial everyday sitting next to the parents of Alex Nieto, and followed his case since the day he died til today. I helped found the Justice & Love for Alex Nieto Coalition in the days after his shooting.

SF magazine invited me to be part of their December 2015 Pro-Activists photoshoot, except that as schedules moved around and dates changed I was finally not able to participate because work travel came up. I believe SF mag was originally interested in my community advocacy work both around housing activism and police brutality. I now feel fortunate that I did not participate given that your mag is willing to print such a badly researched, knee jerk reactionary article.

Overall, your attitude about the police killing of Alex Nieto sucks. Rather than dissuade us from the argument that this was not death by gentrification, I would say that you have perfectly captured the spirit of the despised gentrifier who justifies the expulsion of a native resident by any means necessary. If as a journalist, you really want us to believe that gentrifiers get a bad rap, then attempt to see the other side and understand exactly how newcomers employed in the tech world contributed to his killing. Shame on you Mr. Ezenkazi. While you claim that the mentally ill should not be criminalized*, your coverage of the Alex Nieto shooting makes a case for the opposite because you call in as fact that which was deemed irrelevant by a court of law. Moreover, you give credit to the police version of events entirely without actually considering that their narrative is biased. You made no attempt to research the alternative evidence produced at trial. You go on to say that officers who kill people with mental illness get medals as if that is proof that they acted justifiably. That alone tells me how clueless you are about the extent to which police departments and police unions will go to cover murder committed on the job by fellow officers. To them, you just became a darling. To us, you just became their dunce.

I think you owe an apology to Rebecca Solnit for attacking her journalistic integrity. But most importantly, you should apologize to Alex’s family and his community who you so callously disregard in tainting the memory of Alex Nieto by repeating the character assassination based* used as part of the biased police narrative.

Alex Nieto is not here to defend nor explain himself, but his community will stand up for him, because many other black and brown community members know what it is like to be unjustly racially (and mentally) profiled by newcomers, police officers, and journalists, and many other white (including newcomer) community members know how important it is to stand by them. It is in that spirit that I write this response, because without accountability by those who causes us harm, there cannot be restoration of community relations. And community relations is what is at stake after the death of Alex Nieto, as well as after the many no-fault evictions and police brutality incidents and deportations before and after his death.

In case there is any doubt, journalistically speaking, I am suggesting you apologize and clarify in your article that the mental health record you based your entire narrative on was not deemed relevant to the shooting.

Sincerely,
Adriana Camarena

*denotes: typo corrected or strikethrough edit added for readability, otherwise same letter
** Rebecca Solnit, Death by gentrification: the killing that shamed San Francisco, March 21st,2016, The Guardian.  The title of the article “Death by gentrification-…” was chosen by the editors of The Guardian and not language actually used by the author Rebecca Solnit. Originally the letter said “in the article written by Rebecca Solnit.”

What’s the next step towards ending police impunity?

We invite you to learn about our most recent demands for a permanent memorial for Alex Nieto, a package of legislative reforms, and follow up on a federal investigation requested by the Board of Supervisors of the City. Our demands for legal reform have support from a wide berth of community organizations, and Supervisor Avalos and Campos have agreed to present our demands to the Board of Supervisors. Click here to learn more! On Second Anniversary of Alex’s Killing, Coalition Presents Demands to End Police Impunity.

COMMUNITY DEMANDS TO END POLICE IMPUNITY

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Today on the 2nd Anniversary of Alex Nieto’s killing by SFPD officers, we issue the following:

COMMUNITY DEMANDS TO END SFPD IMPUNITY

On Thursday March 10th, 2016, a majority white suburban jury delivered a verdict in the public trial of the Nieto Family v SFPD that not only stunned our communities, but underscored the history of police impunity that exists in this City.

The jury found that Sergeant Jason Sawyer and Officers Richard Schiff, Roger Morse and Nate Chew did not use excessive force in killing Alex Nieto on March 21st, 2014 in Bernal Heights Park, nearly two years ago when they shot at him 59 times. The trial was widely covered in the media and a factual record of the evidence is publicly available. Put quite simply, based on the facts discovered, we find the police version of events impossible to believe.

The parents of Alex Nieto, in the deepest recesses of grief and sorrow having had to relive their son’s death, and having had to view the photos showing his shot and broken body, and sit near the four officers who shot him to death, now had to absorb that in this court there would be no justice.

The lack of consequence for the officers who killed Alex Nieto sends a strong message to our youth that their lives don’t matter. It has reinforced a lack of confidence in the institutions of the City and County of San Francisco.

On this March 21, 2016, the second anniversary of Alex Nieto having been killed by SFPD officers, we are making the following demands to the City and County of San Francisco, and asking the Board of Supervisors to act upon the following demands:

  • Establish a permanent memorial at the site where Alex Nieto was killed in Bernal Heights Park, where community members have maintained a memorial for two years, as a minimal gesture towards restoring relations.
  • Modify the SFPD Department General Order to make alternatives to lethal use of force unequivocally mandatory.
  • Radically increase transparency of the SFPD by requiring public and online permanent record keeping of complaints and incidents of use of force by officers, according to best open government practices.
  • Establish a Special Prosecutor’s Office that is a true and autonomous investigative and prosecutorial body in cases involving police misconduct including officer involved shootings.
  • Require peer review processes in the Office of Medical Examiner when facing an officer involved shooting.

We also ask the Board of Supervisors to follow up on the January 26, 2016 BOS resolution requesting a federal investigation into the police killings of Alex Nieto, Amilcar Perez Lopez, and Mario Woods, by taking steps to:

  • Establish an action plan with the DOJ’s Civil Rights Division to enforce said Resolution, and
  • Request that the DOJ Civil Rights Division, as regards the killing of Alex Nieto, also investigate the handling of the case and evidence by all relevant city officials and city contractors and consultants involved, namely but not limited to the San Francisco Police Department (its Chief of Police, homicide investigators, crime scene investigators, firearms experts, and any other officers involved in securing, preparing or handling evidence), the Office of the District Attorney, the Office of the City Attorney, the Office of the Medical Examiner, Taser International, and Precision Simulations.

Alex Nieto’s death will not be in vain.

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HOW TO STAY IN TOUCH WITH OUR CAMPAIGN:

ENDORSE OUR COMMUNITY DEMANDS!

We ask that community members and organizations endorse our demands.

  • Write and call your supervisors to demand action!
  • If you are community organization or group, we also request that you send an email to info@justice4alexnieto.org expressing your interest to be included in collective actions.

WHAT WILL WE ACHIEVE?

Act towards restoring community relations with a permanent memorial to Alex Nieto on Bernal Heights Park AND strike at the heart of police impunity with legal and institutional reform that will:

  • Close regulatory loopholes that impede accountability for police misconduct
  • Increase the transparency of police officer conduct in our communities
  • Create a new and autonomous Special Prosecutor to investigate and prosecute police misconduct, including officer involved shootings
  • Insist on a federal civil rights investigation into the police killings of Alex Nieto, Amilcar Perez Lopez, and Mario Woods
  • Ask for a federal investigation into tampering of evidence by City Officials in the Alex Nieto case

ALEX NIETO’S DEATH WILL NOT BE IN VAIN.