Crowdfunding Underway for Alex Nieto Memorial on Bernal Hill

Rendering of proposed Alex Nieto memorial on Bernal Hill (Source: gofundme)

A crowdfunding effort is currently underway to finance a memorial for Bernal neighbor Alex Nieto, who was killed during a confrontation with San Francisco police officers in March 2014.

Launched by friends and family of Alex Nieto, the crowdfunding campaign says:

The San Francisco Board of Supervisors’ voted 9 to 1 in favor of the “Amor for Alex Nieto Memorial,” which means that this ordinance is veto proof from the Mayor. We will transform history with this powerful monument.

For Alex Nieto, for our community, we fought this fight, and we won the first memorial ever in California dedicated to a victim of a police killing. We held our dignity and proved to the world how we argue better and action more creatively and courageously than anyone ever could imagine.

Once the memorial is established, community members will hike up to that mountain and pray like Alex did and look out over the beautiful view of San Francisco and be inspired by our community resilience. Students will travel up to that hill for field trips and to learn about the history and creativity of our community; they will write thousands of educational essays. Families will pilgrimage hands together and love each other at the place where Alex breathed his last breath. This will be a place of peace, of inspiration and amor.

Bernal neighbors who would like to contribute to the memorial campaign may do so here. At publication time, the campaign has raised $2500 of a $40,000 goal.

Alex Nieto lived on Cortland Avenue with his parents, Elvira and Refugio Nieto. He was killed during a March 21, 2014 confrontation,  during which police alleged Alex Nieto pointed a weapon that looked like a handgun.

A San Francisco District Attorney investigation of the incident concluded that police acted lawfully during the incident, and during a subsequent wrongful death suit initiated by the Nieto family, a jury ruled the SFPD officers involved in the incident had not used excessive force.

Friends and family of Alex Nieto maintain his death was a byproduct of gentrification. In 2016 , then-San Francisco supervisors John Avalos and David Campos passed an ordinance directing the City to install a memorial for Alex Nieto on Bernal Hill.

47 thoughts on “Crowdfunding Underway for Alex Nieto Memorial on Bernal Hill

  1. I was pleased to hear that there would be a memorial but this is too much for me. This looks like a shrine and is out of place with the landscape and spirit of Bernal Hill.

  2. It was a terribly sad and disturbing consequence that Alex lost his life on the hill but a memorial isn’t appropriate. What did he do for SF? And now you are asking for money for pay for this. It’s over the top.

  3. A bench with his name, date of birth/death with RIP on it is fine. This is so out of place for Bernal Heights Hill and the neighborhood. It is almost as bad as when Bernal Heights Library had the mural with gang members on it and the so-called advocates like Campos wanted the same mural put up when the building was renovated/repainted. Fortunately, reason prevailed; the new mural is beautiful and reflects the people who live in Bernal Heights. .

  4. I have to agree with the other comments. A bench with an engraving or even the plaque as shown would be very nice and fitting with the surroundings.

  5. This “shrine” is totally inappropriate. As others have said a memorial bench would be fine. This is just an eyesore on the landscape.

  6. I’m sorry for him and his family, but don’t understand why he deserves a special memorial (beyond a plaque on a bench…etc.). And although his death is a tragedy for his family and friends, I don’t understand why the circumstances of his death deserve to be memorialized.

  7. I’m sorry that this man lost his life unnecessarily and that his family is suffering. However, I agree with other posters that the proposed design of the memorial is not appropriate. Bernal Heights Park is a public space for all community members to enjoy, regardless of where one comes from and how long one has lived in Bernal Heights, or in SF, for that matter. I think that it’s wrong that a handful of people get to make a decision that impacts an entire community. Does anyone know if there will be a public comment period on the design?

      • Here’s what it says in the legislation passed by the Board of Supervisors:

        Section 3. Commemoration of Alex Nieto.
        The Board of Supervisors directs the Recreation and Park Department, after a community process open to residents of the Bernal Heights neighborhood and to other
        interested persons, and subject to Civic Design Review by the Arts Commission, to install a memorial on Bernal Heights Park in honor of Alex Nieto. The memorial shall be located along the paved pathway on the northern side of Bernal Hill.

        SOURCE: https://sfgov.legistar.com/View.ashx?M=F&ID=4932349&GUID=91B8F59F-F8E5-4252-9B04-0CB07A8C46F0

      • Good to know that there will be a public review. Now I can CTFD and stay tuned. Thanks for the follow-up, Todd.

      • I support the memorial but have some issues with the image here. Mostly that the location is on the west side, not the north side. It’s not where the current memorial is at all, and would not be very fitting right in front of those two benches on the west side. I understand that this community lost a beloved member, but I use those benches and don’t want to be staring at that reminder when I’m trying to unwind. I acknowledge that Alex was trying to unwind on the hill and that maybe my own wants/needs are not the most important here. Still, I do use that spot regularly to relax and watch the fog roll in. I also don’t think the memorial where Alex was killed by the police would go away if this site was chosen. I hope they do put it right where the current memorial is, and that they stop planting things there. That site keeps expanding and there were once beautiful Ithuriel’s spears right there. That’s the purple flower on that side of the hill that just faded into summer. I understand why there is a need to tend the site and I hope that the permanent memorial offers that to the family and friends of Alex. I respect their desire for a memorial would will make a donation after the whole thing is vetted through the community.

  8. As someone who lived in Bernal for 9 years and was active with the NWBA, but is considered by some ornery people to be an “outsider”, I’m still a citizen of San Francisco. Thus, I have a say in this issue.

    I agree that a memorial is WAY out of line. Maybe a bench. That’s it. Remember, folks, that Alex Nieto is no martyr. He pointed a taser that looked like a gun at officers in the twilight after they had been called in to investigate a “man brandishing a gun”. He is no martyr; he is no hero. If people are going to do something, put in a bench. That’s it.

    • Please remember that Nieto pointing his taser which looked like a gun at the officer is the *police* version of what happened, and they proceeded to shoot him 15 times.
      Police lie all the time, there is no reason to take their version at face value.

      I am neither for nor against a memorial.

      • This is not a face value acceptance. This was decided by the court. If you don’t believe the police and don’t believe the court, then we have a much bigger issue on our hands wrt how society can operate. I’m open to suggestions. What do you recommend we do?

      • @amory blaine, My recommendation would be to simply remember that the police – like all humans – sometimes lie.
        If people are going to bring up in this thread that Nieto was a taser pointing criminal, then I am going to bring up is that law enforcement bodies tend to skew findings their way.
        Did it happen here? I don’t know, but it has happened enough that I am not going to sit and accept everything they say.

        I think all (most I hope) of us can agree that a memorial of some sort can be considered.

  9. I think a bench in the park similar to the one in Precita Park made with the melting down of guns would be a suitable memorial and perhaps a plaque nearby with an explanation as to its importance. The bench can be placed on Bernal Hill.

  10. Memorial proponents write: “students will travel up to that hill for field trips and to learn about the history and creativity of our community; they will write thousands of educational essays.” Will they learn that Alex shot his good friend with the same taser weeks before; that he waved it at people walking on the hill as he stood shouting on a bench -and when a large number of police came to investigate ” a man with a gun”, that he pointed same taser with a laser at them and shouted for these police to put their hands up when commanded to put his own hands up first? Clear lesson to kids? Nowhere is it remotely ok to wave a taser openly at people –yet he will be memorialized? Who wouldn’t have called the police seeing this? What will happen to the existing memorial placed where he was shot? Even the family was at one time happy with a bench to look at the city as Alex once did for solace. The community began to come together at this, yet a small group of proponents, working with Campos and Ronen have remained focused on gentrification as they attach this word to “memorializing” Alex. They are angry also at the police who proponents have said, should “have recognized Alex” and withheld their fire. Wow, with a taser waving in the twilight with its laser on…A quiet contemplative memorial for all the community to reflect on (in the spirit of what I heard Alex’s father say about his son and his wishes at the BHNC gathering) -that would have been fine but this is now completely out of control. Its not even about Alex and compassion anymore. Community Process is about ALL of the community coming together -letting all sides be heard, compromise and unity. Not what we have seen happen with this.

    • Thank you for this. You pointed out pretty much everything that everyone is thinking. if nothing else, your comments certainly reminds me of why I did not vote for Campos or Ronen for District 9 supervisor. The supervisor that voted no on this got it right.

  11. Terrible what happened but it is not right to erect a memorial for every terrible thing that happens – otherwise – we will be a city of memorials and no park space. The park is not the right place either. Why memorialize where he died.? Have never understood this. This potential version of a memorial is all wrong as well. Too big. I thought it was going to be just a bench. It is already an eyesore of plastic flowers and rock cairn for 3 years.

  12. Are you all seriously concerned with the message a controversial memorial sends, but have no concern over these comments -talking to you GoldenGateShark – which foster biased xenophobic views which lack empathy or any glimpse of subtlety?

    I am proud to have this memorial on our precious and pristine hill. Nieto was shot 15x, some in the back. To believe that he “deserved it” (however better it makes you feel) turns a blind eye to the issues of police brutality in SF and elsewhere. I, for one, would rather have a conversation with my children standing in front of a memorial that highlights the very real issues of police brutality in our nation, and yes, in our backyard, which would include the fact that some people will resort to blaming the victim and are unable to understand or grapple with the systemic oppression that goes hand in hand with gentrification. I have explained to my children that as gentrifiers in Bernal, we need to always be aware of multiple perspectives and to understand all sides.

    Perhaps, one day, your children and my children will find themselves at the park, in a classroom, or on the hill together and will be able to have this discussion for themselves. Hopefully, by virtue of growing up in Bernal ,with its rich history of diversity and political action, they will come to more balanced conclusions than are represented in these comments.

    One can only hope..

    • Ooh look at you with your snap judgement calling me Xenophobic. Thats funny as I am actually Mexican and descendant from the Mayan territories. Your assumption might not be as on target as you had hoped. That mural rendering is ugly as fuck no matter what culture anyone is from. I am all for remembering Alejandro, but we don’t need an altar up on the hill.

  13. When Alex stood on a public bench and agressed against the police with a taser/laser, he made his private troubles public and compelled the public sector to engage with his personal demons. The result was disastrous.
    Now his family want to compell the public community to engage again with Alex’s suffering, and their personal grief process; but not for just a short time, but permanently.
    But we the community aren’t required to go along with it, and if we choose not to it doesn’t mean there’s something wrong with us. Since we’ve been forced to engage, we get to do it however it feels right to us, having compassion for the family’s process and loss, but managing our public, collective outdoor space as we see fit.
    We have to set boundaries, especially when members of our community don’t appear to be able to find their own boundaries.

  14. I’ll admit that if it were me, I would probably go for a subdued bench, too. But I’m a middle-class white guy who grew up in repressed Protestant New England. Who am I to condemn this memorial, which for all I know might be right in line with the cultural and historical norms of Alex’s family’s culture? That said, this has to pass muster with the Arts Commission, so I’m sure the final version will look different. Folks should really cool it about the design, or at least express their thoughts in a more respectful and positive way. The vitriol here helps nobody, least of all the people spewing it.

    Speaking of respect, to all the people here who are so sure of who was to blame for Alex’s death, I’ll repeat the question I ask every time this topic pops up on this site: what about the way that SFPD treated Alex’s family after his death? Do folks remember that the police did not notify the family that he had died until the next day, many hours after they had impounded his car and researched his medical history to “determine” that he had a mental illness? And that when they did contact his family, they did so only in the context of attempting to search his house (he lived with his parents) without a warrant, and without providing any information to his parents about his whereabouts, let alone that he was dead? Alex’s parents had spent the night worried stiff about their son, and had enlisted the support of a friend who spoke English to help them try to track him down. It was that friend who insisted that the police tell the family what had happened to Alex – there is no indication that they were going to that when they visited their house, or anytime later. Is it any wonder that some of Alex’s family and friends, and many of us in their community, do not believe the police account of his death? Personally, I believe that the actions of the police point to a cover-up. What were they trying to cover up?

    Regardless of what I believe, I recognized that there is disagreement about who was right and wrong on the hill when Alex died, and the lack of objective facts make it hard for me to condemn those who think the police did what they had to do. But there should be no disagreement that the way the police treated his parents was wrong. They were not treated with respect or sympathy by our police, by our government, by the people they relied on to protect them. For me, that’s what this memorial stands for: an attempt by our city and our community to show the family some small amount of respect and sympathy, however belatedly. I’ll be proud to donate to it.

  15. The comments here show the problem with the memorial as envisioned.

    It is divisive, not unifying. It is intended to polarize. It is meant to cement one version of the event and exclude facts that do not reinforce that narrative.

  16. This is beyond silly. And as for teaching our children about police brutality, if we taught them to respect the police we would not have to teach about brutality. It is about gentrification ….almost as humorous.

    • You may find it astonishing that sometimes the police brutalize people for no reason at all. They have been known to break into a dwelling with a no-knock warrant and toss a flash bang grenade into a baby’s crib. Shocking? No. Rather common, I fear.

    • @Rocketrob, I also heard that if women didn’t wear such short skirts they wouldn’t be raped.

      You may not want to believe it, but some people are horrible humans…and sometimes horrible humans wear badges. Not all badge holding humans are horrible, just like not all men are rapists. It’s called critical thinking. You should try it.

      • Yes b there are some horrible humans out there some with and some without badge. My experience indicates many more w/o badge and if police are treated with respect they return the favor. If you are not committing a crime, or fleeing the police or giving them a reason to believe you are putting their lives in danger, or going off on a verbal tirade toward them, well I think many would see a similar response.

      • Putting the Alex Nieto situation aside…fleeing the police or going off on a verbal tirade are not justifiable reasons to be shot. That’s the bottom line. If you pose a danger to the public or to the police that’s a different story, but just being an asshole is not reason enough for the police to use their guns. Sure, in an ideal world people would be respectful to everyone, but this isn’t an ideal world. There is along history of the police being violent against, specifically, minorities. There’s a lot of justifiable anger based on that history. If you don’t see that or understand it then you’re privilege is blinding you to the reality. So don’t go around saying…well, if people were more respectful they wouldn’t have to get their asses handed to them by police. That’s a narrow minded, uninformed perspective.

  17. For what it is worth there is a mural of Alex at the top of the hill on a “Sutrito” wall. It is on the west side in a recessed area. In that area it is on the north wall.

    I will never know the actual events of that day, whether Alex was a legitimate perceived threat to the police or if they were the aggressors. I don’t think anyone knows except Alex and those police.

    If it could be proven that he was shot down mercilessly in cold blood that would justify a memorial of this scale…. but it can’t. So a bench is a reasonable memorial. Erecting the proposed memorial creates the narrative that he was shot down mercilessly in cold blood. This was not proven in the court of law and perpetuating this narrative paints the police as monsters further dividing us. What if they were reacting in legitimate fear for their lives?

  18. b,
    Understanding the civil rights era violence toward minorities and what led to and grew from that, why would an informed, intelligent, logical person start an interaction with a police officer with an abusive, angry, verbal tirade? Would not or should not the informed, intelligent and logical person if only for their own best interest, show some restraint and or respect for the officer by not being a belligerent asshole? Sort of a get through the moment defense strategy if nothing else? And when committing a crime and the officer commends “Stop or I’ll Shoot!” – what does the informed, intelligent and logical person not understand about the meaning and consequences of that command?

    • @rocketrob, you’re making a lot of assumptions in your statement which shows you’re looking at this from a very narrow perspective. You’re assuming that 1) the suspect in the situation starts the confrontation by being a belligerent asshole and 2) the officer does NOT start the confrontation with the suspect by being a belligerent asshole. I’ve seen far too many shooting videos, Philando Castile being a perfect example, where someone is shot by an officer despite being a perfectly rational and level headed person.
      It goes back to the bottom line, being an asshole is not justification for being shot. It doesn’t matter if the person is intelligent or dumb, mentally ill or sane, angry or pleasant. If you are not posing a danger to the public or to yourself you should not be shot by police. Period.

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