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Community activists unite to demand police accountability

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Family members of Luis Gongora, a homeless man killed by San Francisco police in April, sit on the steps of City Hall during a rally on Tuesday held by the Justice for Amilcar Perez-Lopez Coalition to demand that officers be punished for their involvement in shootings. (Jessica Christian/S.F. Examiner)
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Communities came together at City Hall on Tuesday to speak for the victims of police shootings, demanding that police officers face punishment for officer-involved shootings instead of a transfer to different neighborhoods, some activists said.

Supporters of the Justice for Amilcar Perez-Lopez Coalition gathered on the Hall of Justice steps at 850 Bryant St. to demand that District Attorney George Gascon charge the officers who shot Perez-Lopez with murder.

Perez-Lopez, a 21-year-old Mission resident from Guatemala, was shot in the back, head and arm by police in February 2015, after allegedly holding a knife and allegedly attempting to steal a bike.

Supporters at the rally included Luis Poot Pat, a cousin of homeless resident Luis Gongora, who was shot by police in April outside his tent on Shotwell Street, and Elvira and Refugio Nieto, the parents of Alex Nieto, who was shot by police in March 2014 at Bernal Heights Park. Poot Pat and the Nietos held signs in support of the coalition’s demands of justice for Perez-Lopez.

“Police violence is a public health issue … and leads to trauma in the community,” said Dr. Margaret Stafford, a member of the Do No Harm Coalition.

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The group marched through the SoMa district to City Hall while one protester, Darrell Rogers of the Justice 4 Mario Woods Coalition, stood in intersections holding up traffic with his sign. Members of the respective groups rounded the side of City Hall and spread over the steps facing Van Ness Avenue.

Gwen Woods spoke tearfully about losing her 26-year-old son, Mario Woods, who was fatally shot by police in December. “I have to be Mario’s voice,” she said. “I have to continue to fight so that you can keep your son, your daughter.”

A recent Blue Ribbon Panel on Transparency, Accountability, and Fairness in Law Enforcement challenged the San Francisco Police Department to adopt 81 reforms. The panel also recommended that SFPD regularly update, review and revise its use-of-force policies, limit the existing power of the Police Officers Association — which it called “a good old boys’ club” — and that officer-involved shootings should be independently investigated by the DA instead of by the police department.

“The San Francisco Police Department needs to implement every [reform]” said Phelicia Jones, a speaker for the Justice 4 Mario Woods Coalition and a SEIU 1021 union member.

The Board of Supervisors recently declared July 22 as Mario Woods Day, celebrated this year with a planned day of remembrance at the Bayview’s Cornerstone Missionary Baptist Church and a celebration of Woods’ life at the Martin Luther King Jr. Park. Both events are within a few blocks of where a group of officers shot Woods eight months ago.

In December, witnesses of the Bayview shooting posted videos online of the officers surrounding Woods, who police said fit the description of a suspect in a stabbing incident, walking slowly away from the officers against a wall. Five of the officers’ names were released by SFPD, though 10 were present with guns drawn.

“For every one that gets video, there are a hundred that don’t. And most don’t have witnesses,” said Oakland resident and activist Steve Jacobson.

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