San Francisco, CA — When police officers die while doing their job, the community comes out en masse to pay their respects. Roads are closed, miles-long processions fill the streets, and the entire community mourns the loss of life.
However, when we compare that treatment to how a person who is killed by police is treated, a glaring difference arises. The victims of police violence, even when entirely innocent, have their pasts dragged through the media to shame them, the absolute worst pictures of them plastered across the web, and they receive little to no sympathy from their community — who is always quick to claim ‘they deserved it.’
What happens when communities go against the paradigm of victim shaming and unquestioning support of police though? Well, people become less blinded by their apologist indoctrination, and they look at these killings with an objective mind. This is the case in San Francisco, who’s community members have just decided to erect the first ever government-sponsored memorial to a victim of police violence.
Naturally, this choice to remember a victim of police, outside of the normal smear campaigns in the media, is causing quite the sh*t storm among cops.
This week, according to CNS, the Board of Supervisors voted 9 to 1 to erect a memorial for Alejandro “Alex” Nieto, a 28-year-old Latino man, who was shot and killed by four police officers at Bernal Heights Park on March 21, 2014.
Nieto was shot 14 times after police mistook the taser from his security job for a pistol.
Lt. Jason Sawyer and Officers Roger Morse, Richard Schiff and Nathan Chew were cleared of any wrongdoing, despite the excessive amount of shots fired at this innocent man who posed no threat.
Before being brutally executed, Nieto was a practicing pacifist and Buddhist. He was particularly active in trying to make his community a better place for everyone, as a member of the Mission Peace Collaborative. He was attending college on a full scholarship while studying criminal justice and worked security at a night club to provide for his family. His goal was to become a probation officer to help guide troubled youth in a positive direction.
Nieto’s death and the officers’ exoneration sparked a massive outpouring of resistance during which citizens held mock trials to show what would have happened if these cops were actually held accountable.
The death was divisive among police and the citizens, which is why District 2 Supervisor Mark Farrell, the single ‘No’ vote on the memorial, is so outspoken against it.
Farrell says the memorial sends the wrong message to “the men and women of our police department who put their lives on the line every day.”
However, according to Courthouse News, District 10 Supervisor Malia Cohen vehemently rejected Farrell’s insinuation that supervisors could not memorialize the tragic shooting death of Nieto while also recognizing the contributions and sacrifices of police officers.
“If law enforcement wants to be recognized, all they have to do is ask, the same way the community has asked,” Cohen said.
The police union is highly outspoken against memorials for their victims of any kind. Union president Martin Halloran voiced his objection to such things as “hurtful” to the families of law enforcement officers.
However, one council member took that notion and blew it apart.
“We specifically rejected that false choice,” District 9 Supervisor David Campos said. “We take the loss of life of one of our citizens as seriously as we take the loss of life of one of our officers.”
With so much unaccountable killing and violence from police, this memorial will serve as a reminder to the community that police are not perfect, and blindly referring to them all as ‘heroes’ is a slippery slope down the path of tyranny.
“This means everything,” Oscar Salinas, a member of the Justice for Alex Nieto coalition said. “But this is just the beginning. Parents and kids for generations can walk to that hill and talk about what happened to him.”
With so many memorials devoted to those who’ve served their country, it is certainly heartening to begin memorializing those whose country destroyed them.