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San Francisco Police Have Shot And Killed A Homeless Mexican Man

On Thursday, San Francisco police shot and killed Luis Gongora, a 45-year-old homeless Mexican man. The authorities claim that Gongora was armed with a knife and charged at them, but multiple eyewitness accounts contradict the official police narrative.

What are the police saying?

Credit: San Francisco Chronicle

The SFPD says the altercation began after they received a phone call from the city’s homeless outreach team alerting them of a man with a big knife walking along a homeless encampment on Shotwell Street, located in the Mission District, a historically Latino neighborhood that has been transformed by gentrification.

According to four witness statements released by the police, Gongora was sitting down, but got up abruptly and charged at the police with the weapon in hand. SFPD first fired beanbag rounds to subdue him, but were ineffective in stopping Gongora. As a result — and because they claimed that they feared for their lives — SFPD opened fire.

The San Francisco Chronicle obtained surveillance video of the incident, but the actual shooting took place outside of the camera frame, so it’s difficult to say what actually happened.

“They need to realize that some people don’t speak English.”

Credit: Mission Local/Vimeo

Not everyone is buying what the police are saying. John Visor, who lived in the homeless encampment with Gongora and claims to have been his friend, said that Gongora wasn’t a threat.

“He didn’t charge at the officers,” Visor told The Guardian. “He was going in circles because he didn’t understand what they said. He had a knife on him, but he didn’t have it out. He had it in his hip, and when he hit the ground, that’s when it fell out.”

Stephanie Grant, another witness who also lived in the camp, suggested that Gongora’s inability to speak English contributed to his death.

“They need to realize that some people don’t speak English,” Grant told the Guardian. “They didn’t wait for anything. It all happened so fast.”

The Latino Mario Woods?

Credit: @JusticeOrElse/Twitter

Luis Gongora’s death is drawing comparisons to Mario Woods, the 26-year-old black man who was shot and killed by SFPD last December. Police defended the Woods death, citing that because he had just stabbed someone he prone to do harm to somebody else. But video evidence of Mario Woods’s final moments — filmed by a middle schooler — has the feel of an execution by firing squad. (You can watch the very graphic video here.) As a result, beleaguered San Francisco mayor Ed Lee asked the Justice Department to look into the shooting.

There’s also Alex Nieto, the 28-year-old Mexican-American who was killed while casually eating a burrito in Bernal Hill Park, located in yet another neighborhood that’s transitioning from working-class Latinos to tech bro enclave.

As was the case after the deaths of Woods and Nieto, activists took to the streets to protest the police shooting. On Sunday, a group of 40 or so protestors shut down traffic near where Gongora was shot. Meanwhile, Mayor Lee announced over the weekend that the city was going to take down homeless encampments like the one found on Shotwell Street because of safety concerns.

READ: Latinos Pushed Out of One of San Francisco’s Coolest Neighborhoods

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A San Francisco Mural Is Honoring An Undocumented Guatemalan Immigrant Who Was Unarmed And Killed By Police

Things That Matter

A San Francisco Mural Is Honoring An Undocumented Guatemalan Immigrant Who Was Unarmed And Killed By Police

cialuart / Instagram

The people of San Francisco have a lot of heart. Yes, the wealthy thrive there, and the homeless community continues to grow, but somewhere in the middle is an empowering group of fighters for justice. They do not back down but instead make their voices heard loud and clear. It’s a tight-knit alliance that is responsible for forcing change on all fronts of authority. San Franciscans are also incredibly beautiful at honoring fallen residents. 

Almost five years after 20-year-old Amilcar Perez-Lopez was gunned down by police in San Francisco, artists are honoring him with a massive mural in the Mission District.

Credit: crashgrammy / Instagram

The mural was designed and directed in community and collaboration by Carla Elana Wojczuk with, Homies Organizing the Mission to Empower Youth (HOMEY), Justice4Amilcar Coalition, Mission community, Lucía González Ippolito, and assisted by Flavia Elisa Mora; Lead Muralists: Carla Elana Wojczuk, Lucía González Ippolito, Cristian Muńoz, Anna Lisa Escobedo, Adrianna Adams, Flavia Elisa Mora (painting and poetry), Pancho Pescador; lettering: Sonia G Molin. The mural is titled “Alto al Fuego en La Misón” and the most prominent subject on the mural is Perez-Lopez, the undocumented young man from Guatemala.

On Feb. 26, 2015, Perez-Lopez was fatally shot by the SFPD, who were in plainclothes in the Mission District. The officers reported that they “opened fire to protect themselves and others from a man who was acting erratically and was armed with a knife,” the SFGate reports. Witnesses told a different story. They said Perez-Lopez was running for his life, which is why he was shot in the back. 

The Perez-Lopez investigation went on for years, and in the end, the SFPD was never charged, but Police Chief Greg Suhr did resign from his post. However, it wasn’t just because of the pushback from the Perez-Lopez investigation but from multiple fatal shootings of unarmed people at the hands of the police. His parents eventually won a settlement from the SFPD

Aside from the artful depiction of Perez-Lopez, the mural also pays tribute to Black and brown people who have died as a result of police brutality as well as people who have died on the southern border.

Credit: amaya_papaya28 / Instagram

During the year in which he was killed, Perez-Lopez “was one of the 67 Latino people killed,” the Guardian reports. The publication adds that Perez-Lopez was also one of the 58 percent who was killed and unarmed. 

“‘Why didn’t you put in Jessica Williams?’ Or, ‘Why didn’t you put in this person?’ The truth of the matter is that we just didn’t have enough space,” Ippolito told the SFWeekly. “And I wish we could include a lot more.”

Ippolito said she and the rest of the mural team were confronted with the fact they didn’t have enough space to put every person that lost their life because of the SFPD. The mural is already one of the largest murals “to be painted in the Latino Cultural Corridor in a decade,” according to the local publication. 

“That was the hardest part,” Anna Lisa Escobedo, another artist on this project, said to SF Weekly. “From the community, a lot of people were saying, ‘We are missing this person, this person, this person.’ We could do five more murals and focus on people who had the same circumstances, and that is sad.”

This isn’t the first artwork that has honored Perez-Lopez.

Credit: msmichellemeow / Instagram

His painted portrait was seen throughout the streets of San Francisco when residents demanded justice in his death. A couple of months after he was killed, artist YESCKA painted a mural that included Perez-Lopez. The mural was painted on the sidewall of the gallery Red Poppy Art House, which is located just blocks two from where Perez-Lopez was shot and killed. 

The mural by Ippolito is pretty remarkable because of its use of bright colors, and the inclusion of Mexican motifs, both the Guatemalan and San Francisco landscape, and Perez-Lopez in his signature Giants baseball cap. But the mural is also representative of an altar of sorts. Perez-Lopez is pictured inside an altar, and the rest of the people that are honored in the painting are seen on prayer candles. 

The other deceased individuals on the mural include Roxana Hernandez, Claudia Patricia Gomez Gonzalez, and Oscar and Valeria Martinez, who died either on the southern border or in ICE custody. 

Credit: cialuart / Instagram

This mural is a perfect addition to the many outstanding paintings that the city of San Francisco has to offer. 

One of my favorite things to do when I am back in the Mission is to go on a walking tour to gaze at the stunning murals that depict the people of San Francisco, but also the history of our community.  

READ: One Of The Major Artists In The Chicano Art Movement Has Died At 75

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She Immigrated From Mexico And Now She Is Going To Be Selling Her Tamales To Fans At The New Warriors’ Arena

Culture

She Immigrated From Mexico And Now She Is Going To Be Selling Her Tamales To Fans At The New Warriors’ Arena

Alicia’s Tamales Los Mayas / Facebook

This year is the start of a new era for Golden State Warriors basketball as the team has packed its bags from the old Oracle Arena in Oakland to the shiny new Chase Center in downtown San Francisco. The move across the bay will also coincide with a new line of food options that represent some of the Bay Area’s diverse foodscape. This will include the addition of tamales from an entrepreneur that has waited close to 20 years for an opportunity like this. 

Say hello to Alicia Villanueva, 58, who just landed a contract to sell her tamales at the new arena. Her story is one that represents the best of the American dream and shows the value of hard work.

Credit: Alicia’s Tamales Los Mayas / Facebook

Born in the city of Mazatlan, in the state of Sinaloa, Mexico, Villanueva immigrated to the U.S. with a dream to start a business selling tamales. Since a young age, she had been stuffing tamales with her mother and her abuelita. She believed tamales could be a way to connect her story to those of the people around her and as a way to make a living for her family. But this wouldn’t be easy and it would also take a lot of sacrifice on her behalf. 

So Villanueva hustled. During the day she would clean houses and take care of the disabled. Then at night, she would turn her attention over to tamales where she would make close to 100 tamales a day and up to 500 tamales in a single week. She would then take to the streets going door to door in her Berkeley neighborhood and at local job sites selling tamales. 

“I would knock on doors and introduce myself” after picking up her two young sons from school, Villanueva told the Mercury News. “Some of them became huge customers.”

Thanks to the help of San Francisco-based kitchen incubator La Cocina, who is also her partner in the contract with Chase Center, Villanueva’s dream is slowly becoming a reality.

Credit: @santacruzsentinel / Twitter

Alicia’s Tamales Los Mayas is now getting its time in the spotlight thanks to its partnership with La Cocina, a nonprofit that provides kitchen space and financial training for talented women entrepreneurs. There was also assistance from the Opportunity Fund, another nonprofit that lends money to entrepreneurs who might not qualify for certain loans from other banks. Thanks to that money, Villanueva has taken her tamale business from her Berkeley kitchen to a new 6,000-square-foot facility in Hayward, where she and her 24 employees are able to make 40,000 tamales a month.

“We have a moral obligation to say yes to people like Alicia,” Luz Urrutia, CEO of San Jose-based Opportunity Fund told the Mercury News. “She embodies the American dream, the entrepreneurial spirit.” She says that when entrepreneurs like Villanueva get financial assistance it creates a “ripple effect in our communities.”

All she ever wanted was for someone to take a chance on her tamales and now this the start of what Villanueva hopes is a growing food business that has been years in the making. 

Credit: @juansaaa / Twitter

The sky now seems to be the limit for Villanueva as she is looking to grow even more. As of now, she is having conversations with Whole Foods to hopefully sell her frozen tamales at hot bars in certain stores this December. This will be in addition to the tamales she already sells at Berkeley Bowl and UC Berkeley.

With an increasing demand for her tamales, there is also an opportunity to try new things like introducing organic and vegan options. As well as having her business become zero waste and hopefully start a community garden for the public. 

Things are moving quickly for Villanueva and her family, who assist her every day making tamales, as the business has come full circle after years of just getting by. Tamal orders are coming in every day and with her new partnership with the Warriors, who just last week asked her to deliver 5,000 tamales to the Chase Center, things are finally falling into place. 

“I just can’t believe it,” Villanueva said while showcasing all of her new cooking equipment she was able to purchase due to the loan. “I’m living a beautiful dream.”

READ: Selena Gomez And Hailey Baldwin Just Had Another Interaction And You Might Be Shocked By What Happened Here

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