Last Saturday afternoon, just as the rain began to fall, I heard the roar of a crowd approaching North Bernal from the Mission. A few minutes later, I ran up Precita to Folom Street, just in time to see a large group of demonstrators protesting the death of Bernal neighbor Alex Nieto, accompanied by sizable contingent of SFPD personnel in riot-control equipment.
The group had assembled and marched from the Mission Cultural Center, and it included many of the standard trappings of a Mission District street protest. Several of the protestors carried signs claiming affiliation with the Bay Area arm of ANSWER, the amorphous coalition of anti-imperialist, anti-racism activists. Others carried signs in English and Spanish decying “SFPD Enforced Gentrification.” Several of the faces in the crowd were familiar to anyone who attended last week’s community meeting about the Nieto shooting at Leonard Flynn School.
The crowd was large as it crossed Cesar Chavez, but the combined effects of the fearsome Folsom Street hill and the increasing downpour meant that by the time the protest reached the spot on the north side of Bernal Hill where Neighbor Alex Nieto was slain, the size of the protest group was somewhat diminished.
Which was perhaps a good thing.
Neighbor Alex’s death is an unspeakable tragedy, and Bernal Heights awaits a definitive report on the circumstances surrounding the officer-involved shooting that took his life. Justice must be pursued.
In the meantime, it has become clear that a great many people — and a great many on all sides of this terrible incident who are not from Bernal Heights — are eager to interpret Nieto’s death through the prisms of their longstanding agendas. That is quite understandable; if if not necessarily compatible with a proper inquiry into the facts surrounding Neighbor Alex’s death.
Yet more than anything else, a proper inquiry and credible answers are what Neighbor Alex, and his family, and Bernal Heights deserve.
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