From left to right Stanly Tijerina, Héctor Gómez, Juan Gálvez, HUgo Vargas, Gregory García and Nathan García. Photo by Andrea Valencia.

In the now viral video posted earlier this week on Uptown Almanac adults from Dropbox and elsewhere can be seen insisting that a team of young soccer players leave the field because their team has a permit – one they had paid for.

“If you want to play pick-up, you play pick-up like the rest of us,” the leader of the youth group says to the holders of the paid permit referring to the system generally used when more than two teams want the field.

Later in the video, the young man suggests, “You gotta team, we gotta team, let’s play seven on seven.”

The adults declined. If some argue that it was a lost opportunity for tech workers, it was a clear win for the young soccer players.   The refusal earned them a place on the political stage and on Thursday they took it.

Although Dropbox and some of the adults on the team had already apologized, little had been heard from the soccer players. That changed on Thursday when six of them arrived at City Hall to lobby for their cause –the right to use the Mission Playground’s soccer field without fear of being asked to leave by adults with paid permits.

Even before the hearing at the Rec and Park Commission started they had convinced officials to end paid permitting at Mission Playground, but they carried on, becoming the young front guard for a list of demands that the Latino Democratic Club drew up after talks with the players, their coaches and other non-profits.

Those demands include more supervisors at the parks to insure safety, equity in funding and district councils.

Gregory García, a freshman who goes to Mission High School, said they had been pushed off before and decided on that Thursday that it had to stop. “One day we were like no, we are not getting off the field, we are just going to stay,” he said. “They threatened to call the police and we said, ‘no, we are going to stay, we are tired of this, you guys just can’t just come and take our field. We’ve been coming here for a long time now, you guys can’t come with a piece of paper.’”

García said he had heard about the apology from Dropbox, but he would like more. He and his friends, he said, “want to have a meeting with them and sit down and talk about this thing.”

“We want action, we are tired of this,” he added. And that is what they were trying to get at City Hall.

“I hope you can see why we are so passionate about protecting our parks,” said Juan Gálvez, 17, who is a senior at Abraham Lincoln High School and has been playing soccer since the age of 5 including games at Mission Playground long before the cement became a friendlier turf.

“The day of the incident before they showed us the permit, they tried getting us out of the field with intimidation, a lot of verbal abuse and threats. At one point, someone in the video said ‘Who cares about the neighborhood?’ And the answer is we do.”

The teens agreed that the fields provide them the opportunity to relieve stress and to use their recreational time in a way they can benefit from instead of engaging in activities that become an obstacle in focusing on school.

One of the teens, Hugo Vargas, said “I love this city, I love where I live and I want our parks to be for us, not for any other corporation.

“We let them slide the first few times, but we had to stand up and do what’s right for this community. And it’s a safe park. Another thing I want to bring up is: if it wasn’t for that park, where would we be?”

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Andrea hails from Mexico City and lives in the Mission where she works as a community interpreter. She has been involved with Mission Local since 2009 working as a translator and reporter.

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  1. I’m glad these youth stood up for their neighborhood and access to the field. It’s been hard to see all of these new folks come in with such sweeping entitlement. It’s inspiring to see these young men stand up to what they see as injustice in such a measured and thoughtful way.

  2. These kids stood up not just for themselves but for so many of us who have been displaced from our own neighborhood. It took courage and to them I say, “BRAVO!”

  3. The drop box guys are probably eating crab and lobster and watching ladies shake it up all night. The poor Latin kids are probably stuck babysitting their 8 younger siblings. Things need to change. Equal education for all.

      1. Unless the law is wrong, it which case it’s right to challenge it. Lots of examples in history where people we lionize disobeyed unjust laws.

      2. Some laws are misguided or just plain wrong. It is wonderful when people take a stand against them, as these young men did. (Be the change, Alex.) Non-violent civil disobedience, offers of compromise, and taking it to the powers that be. The PUBLIC parks are for everyone. “Who cares about the neighborhood” indeed. We do, for all of us.

        1. We can care about the neighborhood and believe that public parks are for everyone while also recognizing the value and benefit of having – for a very small portion of the time – organized activities take place in those public parks. Having organized leagues can be great for a neighborhood in so many ways and can run quite smoothly – as is demonstrated by the leagues that have run in this very park.

          So perhaps there is an argument for not having this particular field reserved at certain times, but as a community I don’t think we should condemn all organized activities that take place in parks. Nor should our policy reform efforts be motivated by the fact that a public good or public policy benefits and is used by a group of people (tech workers) that many in the community currently have great disdain for. Yes, part of the motivation for the change in policy was to make sure kids have access to the field, but in reading the comments and listening to much of the rhetoric, the arguments being made are also about tech workers and the contention that persons that haven’t lived in community for decades should somehow operate in some different capacity than members of the community that have long tenures here.

          This very well may be a positive policy change, but the manner in which it was arrived at, and some of the arguments fueling it, give me some concern.

          1. I see where your coming from in saying how long you’ve been here doesn’t matter. But, in a lot of way it is one of the measures of how much you are invested in the location. And a lot of the “techies” seem like the came recently and are going to be gone soon. And because they know they don’t have expectations to stay here, the don’t look out for the long term interest of the City. Its all, exploit as much as they can, as quickly as possible, “who cares about the neighborhood.” Long term people, tend to understand the issue from having lived them, and until the newcomer problems started, expected to stay here for the long-term.

        2. On the flip side, recently renovated soccer fields like the one in question (with synthetic turf) are really popular in the City.

          The permit system is being mis-categorized in the court of public opinion as privatization. It wasn’t. It was an attempt by Parks and Recs to give some groups a chance to reserve the fields (only about 6 hours a week were allocated for reserved play) because the fields are otherwise always in use.

          The permit system is administered incompetently, but that’s another issue.

          If the Latino Democratic Club really cared about the playtime for kids, they wouldn’t have endorsed Prop H (which will keep other fields from being improved). But hey, they got their nice field in the Mission and want to keep just for the neighborhood (i.e., their voter constituency). Retail politics.

          This video the triggered this really serves at a Rorschach test: people see what they want. When I watch it, I see both sides acting poorly.

          1. Why will endorsing Prop H “keep other fields from being improved?” H is really about one place: the Beach Chalet Soccer Fields. If after all the increasing scientific concern about the long-term effects of fake turf parents still want their kids playing on it, that’s one thing. H supporters just believe it’s wrong to install it at the West End of GG Park, whose Master Plan clearly calls for that area to remain as rustic as possible, so that city folk can take a break from urban pressures. So H people are against seven acres of plastic grass and 60-foot high stadium lights on until 10:00 PM, 365 nights a year in that location. They are completely behind renovating the Chalet fields with real grass and they are completely behind soccer and kids.

      3. In this instance $$$$ was supposed to be the law. These decent young kids decided to challenge the pay to play system that has recently hijacked our city and its corrupt decision makers. Good for these kids. This is justice at work; you will see more push back against dirt bags in the days to come. San Francisco is for all of us. We are a diverse community and we will not be steam rolled by $$$$$$$$$$$.