On April 8, The People’s Mission Coalition (PMC) held a vigil for survivors and victims of police and gendered violence at the 24th St. BART Plaza. The vigil opened up a space to collectively grieve and remember people who the city would prefer we forget. 

We lit candles on an altar for Amilcar Perez Lopez, Luis Gongora Pat, Jessica Williams, Mario Woods, Tortuguita (born Manuel Esteban Paez Terán) and countless other victims in the Mission and beyond. 

Alongside the vigil, we set up a free community store with food, water, hygiene products, clothes, Narcan, COVID tests, and other supplies.

Historically, the plaza has been a gathering space where all walks of people come together to provide resources, hang out, and generally create the radical community care and resistance the Mission District is known for. This still happens. But it’s increasingly limited by heavy police presence.

Over the past year, the plaza — and San Francisco as a whole — has become a hot political topic, with the city government, local businesses and nonprofit leaders using it to scapegoat poor people for the complex problems the whole city is facing. 

Unfortunately, PMC’s vigil was interrupted by the police. San Francisco Lowrider Council leadership, who were having a cruise down Mission Street later that day, appeared to send the cops over to us, demanding that we take down the vigil and clear out from the plaza. We know that the roots of lowrider culture is anti-police, a history that is at odds with the Council’s recent participation in calls to increase policing in the Mission.

PMC supports all types of street cultures, including lowrider cruises and sideshows. We think there is plenty of room on the street and at the BART Plazas for everyone. 

Unfortunately, this perspective was not shared by the SF Lowrider Council leadership present that day, who called some of us “outsiders, gentrifiers, and bitches” (ignoring that core members of PMC are born and raised in the Mission District). The machismo and blatant disrespect of women and femmes in our community is one of the many reasons we need to hold these vigils. BART police and security then began patrolling the plaza and forced “illegitimate” vendors to pack up and leave. These vendors are just out here to support themselves and provide cheap goods during these times of high cost of living.

Policing generally increases the likelihood of violence, which we saw play out that morning when SFPD profiled a Black elder and aggressively arrested him in front of El Farolito (they released him later that day with a citation for resisting arrest, despite confirming he was the “wrong person”). SFPD also went on to violently arrest a passerby and two PMC members who were filming on their phones, one of whom was sent to the emergency room as a result of brutal handling by police.

Members of The People’s Mission Coalition (PMC) held a vigil for survivors and victims of police and gendered violence at the 24th St on April 8. At the vigil, an altar was set up for Luis Gongora-Pat, a mayan unhoused man who was killed by police in 2016. Courtesy photo

Joseph Salazar (badge #1142), a well-known abusive SFPD cop that violently harasses people in the Mission, was there threatening people with his nightstick. Even hours after the police and Council had accepted the vigil’s presence and left us alone, Tracy Gallardo (of Latino Task Force and Legislative Aide to Supervisor Shamann Walton) arrived midday and began discreetly filming us.

Despite this attempted repression, PMC held space on the plaza from 10 a.m. until 7:30 p.m. We distributed much-needed supplies, and when several community members saw us doing this, they returned with their own donations to distribute as well. We distributed everything and received over $400 in donations from folks who enthusiastically assured us that mutual aid is what the plaza needs, not policing. 

We emphasized political education, distributed literature and copies of the PMC statement, and had many genuine conversations with people who are deeply concerned about the political direction of the Mission. We provided an open art space with free supplies and invited participation from children and families. By holding this public space, it was used in a grassroots way, filled with more possibilities than it ever would have under the policing of the BART PD, DPW, and SFPD.

As we write this report back, the community tragically witnessed the horrific result of the city’s violent war on the poor. On April 27, Young Women’s Freedom Center organizer, homeless youth, and Black transgender man Banko Brown was shot and killed by Michael Earl-Wayne Anthony, an illegally armed security guard outside of the Walgreens at 825 Market Street. 

Banko’s killing marks a violent escalation, and the lack of accountability for his death, concurrent with the killing of Jordan Neely in New York City, is alarming. The vigilante, right-wing, and political violence occurring from coast to coast must concern everybody in neighborhoods where BIPOC, LGBTQIA+, immigrant, working-class, and poor folks live. 

Here in San Francisco, the blame lies squarely with the political, business, and non-profit elite of the city, who have relentlessly stirred anti-poor sentiment by pinning the city’s “doom-loop” on those deemed “undesirable.” Additionally, Brooke Jenkins continues to rack up reactionary prosecution decisions. She dropped the charges against SFPD Officer Christopher Samayoa for the murder of Keita “Icky” O’Neil, is pursuing charges against Garret Allen Doty, for self-defense against Don Carmignani’s bear spray attacks, and has renewed the war on drugs by pushing to keep people locked up for minor offenses.

We encourage others to respond to our current conditions with grassroots strategies that center on care, empathy, harm reduction, mutual aid, love, and solidarity; not policing, barricades that target sex workers, and criminalization of our neighbors who are most impacted by the class war waged against us by City Hall. 

We must support all vendors, be able to hold space in our neighborhood without intervention from, or reliance on, police and government institutions, and use copwatching as a tool for community-building to keep each other safe. We must understand our survival as a collective community effort, not an individualistic pursuit in which we “other” our neighbors. We must fight poverty, not the poor.  

To view PMC’s statements and set demands, visit thepeoplesmissioncoalition.com, and feel free to reach them on Instagram at @thepeoplesmissioncoalition, and by email at peoplesmissioncoalition@protonmail.com