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In March 2014, an unarmed man named Alejandro Nieto was shot nearly 60 times in Bernal Heights Park by SFPD officers. On April 18, 2019, five years after Nieto’s death, a memorial was finally approved by the San Francisco Parks and Recreation Department. This memorial is a symbol of police accountability and is meant to instill a sense of justice and healing of the people in the Mission neighborhood. This memorial will be installed at the top of Bernal Hill, which provides a 360º view of San Francisco, near the trail that Nieto was shot on. This memorial is extremely significant, not only to the neighborhood and San Francisco as a whole but in the entire movement for police accountability and the push for justice for the many black and brown Americans killed at the hands of the very people who were supposed to protect them.


  • This graph depicts the correlation of the rates of police killings with the violent crime rates in the sixty largest cities in the United States. As you can see in the graph, there is a wide disparity between crime and police killings.
  • This is one of the technical drawings that show where the memorial will be in Bernal Heights Park. It will be near benches at the top of Bernal Hill. The memorial consists of a medicine wheel that will have photos of Nieto and an inscription.
  • This photo shows the south-facing panel of the memorial, which will be visible to those walking on the trail or in the park.
  • This photo shows what will go on the North side of the memorial, which will face out of the park and be visible to passersby.
  • This photo shows the plaque and inscription that will go on top of the memorial.
  • This is a photo of Refugio and Elvira Nieto, Alex's parents, marching in a protest

Alex Nieto worked as a security guard at a San Francisco nightclub and was taking a walk in Bernal Heights Park before his shift when he was shot 59 times by police officers. After his death, the Mission community rose up in support of Nieto’s family and encouraged the prosecution of the four officers involved. However, the community’s support was not enough, as these officers were still exonerated and never paid for their crimes against the Nieto family. Fairly soon after his death, the Justice for Alex Nieto Project was created and they began lobbying the city for a memorial to be put up in his honor. A memorial was initially approved in 2016, but concrete plans were never officially proposed until April of 2019, when an actual plan for the memorial was approved by the Recreation and Parks Department, much to the dismay of the San Francisco Police Officers Association (POA), who have been staunchly opposed to any kind of memorial in Nieto’s memory.

In addition, the former mayor of San Francisco, Mark Farrell, also opposes this memorial and was the sole dissent on the Board of Supervisors to the ordinance establishing the memorial. Farrell said that this memorial sends a bad message to police officers, for whom there is no recognition when they have been killed in their line of duty. The POA also opposed the establishment of a “day of remembrance” for Mario Woods, another victim of police violence in December 2015. The Board of Supervisors said that they would not be intimidated by the “bullying behavior” of the POA, according to a statement given at City Hall in January 2016. Despite the opposition from the POA and the division within the Board of Supervisors, the memorial was still approved by the Recreation and Park Department in April of 2019. This memorial has been regarded as extremely significant because it is the first memorial in California’s history that is dedicated to someone who was killed by the police. It is a groundbreaking memorial, spearheading the movement for police accountability and justice for everyone who has died unjustly at the hands of the police.

Since before the civil rights movement, police brutality against Black and Brown Americans has been a topic of conversation amongst revolutionaries, celebrities and politicians alike. From the death of Emmett Till in the summer of 1955, a movement against police brutality emerged with the goal of officer accountability. This goal has still not been achieved today. After the murders of Michael Brown and Eric Garner in 2014, the Black Lives Matter movement, more often referred to as BLM, emerged in full force and has been fighting since then for the officers involved in their deaths to be held accountable. Christopher Lebron, an Associate Professor of Philosophy at Johns Hopkins University, said that, “while police brutality is not a new phenomenon, it was a particularly fresh topic of discussion and reflection for Americans.” For this reason, Lebron says, the movement has not been widely accepted by Americans. 

Americans are relatively closed off to the idea that the issue surrounding police brutality is not just “a few bad apples”, but a systemic issue with how police officers are trained to fear minorities disproportionately more than they are trained to fear white people. The way that officers are trained to shoot before asking questions and give in to their implicit biases is what got Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Trayvon Martin, Antwon Rose, Philando Castile, Stephon Clark and so many others killed when they were not a threat to the officer(s) that shot them. According to the Mapping Police Violence Project, the police departments in some of America’s biggest cities disproportionately killed black people, as they made up 41% of the victims despite being only 20% of the population in the cities. This is not a case of a few police officers disproportionately committing acts of violence against black and brown Americans, it is a nationwide epidemic that needs to be addressed by changing the way that police officers are trained to interact with the people they serve. If these issues had been addressed earlier, there might be a possibility that these men and women who were killed by the police could be alive and still with their families. This memorial is significant to the Black Lives Matter movement and the broader movement for police accountability because it is the first monument in California to someone who died at the hands of the police. There are not many monuments to black and brown people in America, and a monument of this significance is an extremely important step towards accountability.

Christopher J. Lebron (2018) The Making of Black Lives Matter: a response, Ethnic and Racial Studies, 41:8, 1447-1452, DOI: 10.1080/01419870.2018.1449956

Rivano Barros, Joe. “Two Versions of Alex Nieto Shooting Emerge at Trial.” Mission Local, 2 Mar. 2016.

Solnit, Rebecca. “Death by Gentrification: the Killing That Shamed San Francisco | Rebecca Solnit.” The Guardian, Guardian News and Media, 21 Mar. 2016.

“Alex Nieto Memorial Monument.” SF.gov, City and County of San Francisco.

“Fatal Force: 2019 Police Shootings Database.” The Washington Post, WP Company, 2 Jan. 2018, www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/2019/national/police-shootings-2019/.

McArthur, Margaret. “London N. Breed, Mayor Recreation and Park Commission Minutes April 18, 2019.” SF.gov, 18 Apr. 2019, sfrecpark.org/wp-content/uploads/041819-minutes.pdf.

United States, “Ordinance No. 008-17 .” Ordinance No. 008-17 , San Francisco Park and Recreation Department, 2016, pp. 1–3.

United States, Congress, Bishop, LaMonté. “Alex Nieto Memorial.” Alex Nieto Memorial, San Francisco Recreation and Park Commission, 2019, pp. 1–2.

United States, Congress, “Alex Nieto Memorial Monument Technical Drawings.” Alex Nieto Memorial Monument Technical Drawings, San Francisco Recreation and Park Department, 2019, pp. 1–11.

Waxmann, Laura. “Bernal Hill Memorial for Alex Nieto Headed for Final Approval.” The San Francisco Examiner, The San Francisco Examiner, 6 Apr. 2019, www.sfexaminer.com/the-city/bernal-hill-memorial-for-alex-nieto-headed-for-final-approval/.

Image Sources(Click to expand)

Mappingpoliceviolence.org; U.S. Census 2014; FBI Union Crime Report 2014.

United States, Congress, “Alex Nieto Memorial Monument Technical Drawings.” Alex Nieto Memorial Monument Technical Drawings, San Francisco Recreation and Park Department, 2019, pp. 1–11.

“Alex Nieto Memorial Monument.” SF.gov, City and County of San Francisco.

“Alex Nieto Memorial Monument.” SF.gov, City and County of San Francisco.

“Alex Nieto Memorial Monument.” SF.gov, City and County of San Francisco.

Solnit, Rebecca. “Death by Gentrification: the Killing That Shamed San Francisco | Rebecca Solnit.” The Guardian, Guardian News and Media, 21 Mar. 2016.