Braving the rain, 350 or so activists and family members marched on Saturday afternoon from the Mission Cultural Center for Latino Arts to the place on Bernal Hill where police shot and killed longtime resident Alejandro Nieto.
Police carrying riot helmets marched alongside the protesters who wore tee-shirts printed with the messages: “Justice for Alejandro Nieto,” and “Our Mission, No Eviction.”
While evictions and the Nieto shooting seem unrelated, for many there is the sense that long time residents would not have called the police on Nieto because they would have known him.
“Why did they have to call the cops on us?” Roberto Hernandez, a long-time community activist, asked the marchers outside the Mission Cultural Center on Mission Street near 25th Street. “They like our culture, but they don’t like us.”
Hernandez said that in reference to a phone call police received at 7:11 p.m. on Friday, March 21st, about a man who was acting erratically and allegedly had a gun. When officers arrived they were 75 feet away from him. The sun was setting, police explained at a community meeting earlier in the week, and officers couldn’t tell that Nieto was actually holding a taser gun that he used working as a security guard at a nightclub.
Feeling threatened, police opened fire and ended up shooting to death Nieto who many in the neighborhood knew as an aspiring probation officer.
The goal of the protest was to create awareness about the incident. A man, who only identified himself as “low-ride,” talked to people at taquerias and outside their houses to tell them about Nieto as he marched.
“He was a security guard and they shot him,” he told someone as he was making his way up Bernal Hill on Folsom Street.
“They are walking their dogs, but they don’t even know that someone got shot and killed in their backyard,” he said.
Family members declined to speak about the two restraining orders filed against Nieto for allegedly tasing two former friends. Instead they chose to focus on his volunteering at the Bernal Heights Neighborhood Center and his work at Juvenile Hall.
“I thought he was going to make it,” said Fernando Amador, a friend of Nieto, as he marched on Mission Street.
Once on the hill, the group sang songs and danced as they remembered Nieto and called for an outside investigation into the police department.
A group of people formed a line to hug Nieto’s father, Refugio.
“I didn’t know he was so loved,” he said.
Correction: an earlier version of this article incorrectly stated there there were 100 or so people marching from the Mission Cultural center to Bernal Hill. The count was about 350 people. We regret the error.