This week the family of Alex Nieto started their federal civil lawsuit in his police shooting death, one of a handful of cases in the Bay Area that have drawn significant protests in recent years over police brutality. It has also brought in discussion of San Francisco’s gentrification, with Nieto a Latino born and raised in the Mission and Bernal Heights. On the trial’s first day a couple hundred people gathered in his family’s support outside the courthouse. Here’s a video I put together.

Nieto, 28, was killed March 21, 2014. He was at Bernal Heights Park on a Friday having a burrito before work as a nightclub security guard when passers-by called police and reported a man with a gun. Police responding said he pulled a Taser at them, causing them to fire, including reloading their handguns and shooting him more until he was no longer a threat. There is no video, as has become the standard in the current outrage over police shootings, but a witness said he was not a threat. There’s debate over whether his hands were in his jacket pockets when he was shot, and many other specifics that are being followed by multiple local media outlets daily.

The officers involved were long cleared of criminal wrongdoing, with some promoted, without any big visible change to police or window smashing protests in reaction. But with the Black Lives Matter movement continuing, with Beyonce’s dancers giving a nod to the Mario Woods shooting with an off-stage video at the Super Bowl, the outcome will have an impact on both the movement locally and community at large. The fact that it is getting daily media coverage, while many lawsuits against police reported at their conclusion, if at all, shows how closely this discussion has become one of the nation’s top issues.

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By Eric Louie

Yesterday I was at the 12th Annual Walk For Life West Coast, which brought thousands to downtown San Francisco to rally against abortion.

It also brought pro-choice counter protesters. The event started in front of City Hall, and when pro-life activist David Daleiden started to speak, activists with FEMEN USA rushed the stage. More active in Europe, where they started in 2008, the women activists’ tactic is to take off their tops for a variety of causes. Their messages are painted on their bodies, with flowers in their hair, and the aim is to use their bodies against a system run by men. Security quickly grabbed them and got them off the stage. As police took them away they shouted “Fraud, fake, liar!” 

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I had expected the other counter protesters, who waited along the march route and were separated by a row of police on bicycles. But the FEMEN activists, who undoubtedly create a media spectacle, obviously do not publicize their actions. Luckily I had found a spot past the crowd near the front of stage right to get shots of the speakers. But I was also able to break away to behind the stage when the commotion started. While the basic rule of camera work is to get as close as you can, it also reminded me of an early lesson in journalism, which was to sit in the back of a courtroom, city council meeting or other gathering. You get to see more, and get out in case something happens.

Here’s some video I got.

By Eric Louie

Last night I covered another community outrage after police killed a black man. Police say he was a stabbing suspect with a knife that left them no choice but to shoot when confronted. Protesters say witness cell phone video shows otherwise.

It’s a story seen many times and in many cities, especially with technologies that let us record images and distribute them through the Web. But this goes further than what happened when five officers fired on Mario Woods that Wednesday afternoon, or even the wider talk of police brutality. 

Last night’s demonstration was during a police commission meeting at City Hall. The largest banner, being used to frame the speakers rallying the crowd outside, read “We are the Last 3% of Black SF.” With the current tech boom others are not just left out, but in some cases physically moved out from rising housing costs with gentrification. During the meeting many speakers identified themselves as native San Franciscans who felt alienated.

Coincidentally, I saw this change first-hand recently. The night after police shot Woods, I was in the same neighborhood working coat check for a welcome party for buyers of newly-built homes. The bus went through the same dilapidated, plywood-covered-window, low-rise apartment housing projects I remember passing through on some occasional journey when young. I had before never taken the 19 Polk to the end of the line before this night, or seen the city from the shipyards my grandfather worked. Though I grew up in San Francisco, there was never a reason to go to Bayview-Hunters Point, with more reasons to avoid it. Once, during a high school journalism camp, I helped navigate us by bus to see a Giants game at Candlestick Park. Many wondered why I took them through a sketchy neighborhood to go there.   

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The most heated point last night didn’t come from someone asking police to stay away, but Sala Chandler, whose son Yalani Chinyamurindi was 19 when he was killed with three others in a car earlier this year. She said the fact that her son’s shooting remains unsolved is an example of a low priority for black lives.

Chandler went over her allotted two-minute public speaker time and wouldn’t stop. The audience stood for her support, police walked towards her, and there was some yelling that led to an emergency recess. Commissioners left the room before resuming shortly after. 

“We ain’t going nowhere,” Chandler said into the mic during the chaos.  “We’re gonna shut the streets down.”

 

 

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As a kid, I remember hearing the stories of Jack London and oyster pirating in the San Francisco Bay. This weekend I got to add oyster shucking-at the foot of the Golden Gate Bride during the best day of another couple’s life-to the list of jobs I’ve done.

It was a casual wedding for about 60, organized by the groom who made the chili and bride who made macaroni and cheese. There was also gluten-free mac and cheese. Chinese roast duck came from a restaurant, and one of the three of us hired to work barbecued tri-tip.

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Before dinner we shucked live oysters. The only other time I remember shucking oysters was with my girlfriend a couple years ago. I was trying to impress her and took her to Tomales Bay. But this job is always different, and instead of putting on my black shirt and tie to serve, I spent the night in the kitchen shucking barbecued oysters as they came hot off the grill for the buffet line. After dinner it was time for the help to eat. A mound of barbecued oysters were left over.

Holidays don’t mean much when you don’t have a regular job. But on this Labor Day, I am reminded that I’ve been fortunate in finding rich experiences in whatever I’ve done.

“I wanted to be where the winds of adventure blew.”

-Jack London, “John Barleycorn”

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I was walking along Freedom Boulevard, in Freedom, Calif., looking for a photocopy store when I saw veterans selling fireworks for the Fourth of July. I then found out this area was formerly called Whiskey Hill, with the current name more about leaving behind its Wild West days than patriotism.

Independence Day this year fell on a Saturday, and the day before I got a chauffeuring job to rural Santa Cruz. Between dropping off and picking up, I ran a couple errands, but really had a few hours to kill. So instead of driving I walked.

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That’s when I saw Michael Baker, commander of The American Legion Post 121, with several others at their fireworks stand. Around the holiday, many community groups in California get permission to sell so-called “safe and sane” fireworks like sparklers and fountains. They don’t explode like firecrackers or shoot up like rockets, which are illegal everywhere in the state. With the backdrop of Freedom and veterans, I wanted to get a shot. Baker, a Vietnam War veteran dressed as Uncle Sam, was more than happy to talk about their group, stand and how things have been going. Last year they got $3,200, split between two groups. This year there are concerns with the drought. They unfortunately can only do cash since their credit card machine was not up, and a lot of groups got permits to operate, cutting the profits. Freedom may only be a few thousand people large, but everywhere has a story.

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A few blocks away I found the local photocopy store I saw in the phone book, but it was closed, probably because of the holiday. On the outside wall of a nearby bar and grill, a Pajaro Valley Historical Association, Monterey Viejo Chapter 1846, E Clampus Vitus plaque read “violence, hangings, drinking, and bull and bear fights were part of daily life” in what was formerly Whiskey Hill. Looking into it more, I learned it also had a reputation for brothels, and in 1877 the name was changed to Freedom in hopes of changing the image. The social issues with waves of young men during California’s early days wasn’t limited to here, but I had never heard of it being so connected to town names.

Since I was driving, I did not try the whiskey, and didn’t have a lot of time to look into the history further. But still an interesting first time in Freedom/Whiskey Hill.

Unfortunately I didn’t have time to get my photo of the plaque, but this is one I found online.

Yellow Curry Chicken

Curry chicken was a staple growing up. Besides its spicy comfort, especially with potatoes over rice, ga-lee gai makes the perfect at-home leftovers for enjoying the whole week. In fact, I suggest waiting at least a day for the flavors to soak in before making fresh rice. So when the Golden State Warriors won their first NBA title in 40 years, with star player Steph Curry, it was time to share the recipe. This dish is paired with blue margaritas to also honor the team’s colors, and add sweet and sour to an already complex mix of flavors. This also goes well with darker beers to draw out the richness.

Ingredients

* One whole chicken (or enough parts to serve four to five people)

* Three onions

* Six to eight potatoes

* Six to eight carrots

* One-half to three-quarters cup curry powder

* Two habaneros or other peppers

* Three-quarter teaspoon salt, or to taste

* Water

Directions

Cut chicken into parts and chop onions. Heat pot with some oil and put in onions. Put in chicken. Peel carrots and potatoes. Cut into pieces, chop peppers and put in pot. Add curry powder, salt and water. After 45 minutes the dish will be done, but I suggest letting it cool, even overnight, before reheating and making rice to put it over. It’ll let the flavors soak into the chicken and potatoes.

Blue Margaritas

Fill shaker with ice.
Add 2 oz. tequila, 1 oz. lime juice, 1 oz. blue curacao, 2 tsp. sugar.
Shake hard and pour into glass of choice.

After three years of drought, a heavy storm hit the San Francisco Bay Area the other day. There was street flooding, downed trees, and traffic accidents. There was a lot of hype, and it even got hashtags including #HellaStorm. I got some video of San Francisco Chinatown, North Beach and the Financial District. Thousands were without power, and businesses closed. It’s not the most visually exciting video, but what else was I going to do on a boring rainy day than edit video.