Supporters gather on Mission Street on March 10 for a vigil and rally in remembrance of Alex Nieto at the Mission Cultural Center for Latino Arts in San Francisco. (Jessica Christian/S.F. Examiner)

SF approves Alex Nieto memorial in Bernal Heights Park

As San Francisco remains engaged in police reform, The City will install a memorial for a man shot to death by officers on Bernal Hill more than two years ago.

The Board of Supervisors voted 9-1 on Tuesday to adopt legislation directing the Recreation and Park Department to install a memorial for Alex Nieto, who was shot and killed by San Francisco police in Bernal Heights Park on March 21, 2014.

A civil federal grand jury exonerated the four officers who shot Nieto after police said he pointed a Taser at them when responding to a call about a man with a gun.

The memorial, which would be designed through community input, would require approval by the Arts Commission.

Supervisor John Avalos, who introduced the legislation, said, “If we acknowledge these incidents have happened, it brings us closer.”

Avalos said the memorial is also about a “sense of healing.” At the site of Nieto’s killing, there is currently an altar that is often visited by Nieto’s parents, who attended Tuesday’s meeting.

The memorial was praised by everyone on the board but Supervisor Mark Farrell, who objected to it. He called the incident “horrific,” but said he opposed the memorial “because of the message that it is sending to the men and women of our Police Department who put their lives on the line for us every single day.”

Farrell said that the board has focused on victims of police violence but “in turn, we do not recognize the police officers that have been killed or injured in the line of duty.”

Farrell’s comments were sharply criticized by his colleagues.

“This is not an ‘us or them,’” Supervisor Malia Cohen said. “It doesn’t have to be that simple.”

Cohen said the proposal is “an opportunity for us to come together. This should be healing. This should be bringing peace.” She also said Farrell’s talking points were “tearing us apart.”

Supervisor David Campos noted that the San Francisco Police Officers Association made the same argument as Farrell when the board voted to create a day remembering Mario Woods, who was fatally shot by multiple police officers in December 2015.

“We don’t think that they are mutually exclusive,” Campos said of both honoring police officers and victims of police shootings. “We specifically rejected that false choice.”

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