“They just shot him”
San Francisco Pigs Murder Homeless Immigrant

April 18, 2016 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us


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Memorial for Luis Gongora, killed by police in San Francisco
Memorial for Luis Gongora. Special to www.revcom.us

Welcome to San Francisco, the so-called progressive city of tolerance and respect for diversity, the “beautiful city by the Bay,” seen by people around the country and the world as a trendsetter in liberal causes, social justice, and high-minded efforts—something that’s an exception to America. But San Francisco IS in America. Look beyond the cute tourist areas and past the well-endowed museums, urban parks, and designer bridges; search behind the calculated gestures or cynical lies of its city officials—and you’ll see a city of ethnic cleansing. A city where a large majority of Black people and thousands of Latinos have been driven out in recent years. A city where Black people make up less than six percent of the population and 56 percent of those in county jail. A city of thousands of homeless treated like an eyesore to be hidden away—or shot down in the street. Welcome to San Francisco, a city that’s part of the same America built on the foundation of slavery, genocide, conquest, and oppression.

And in San Francisco, the police have murdered yet again.

At about 10 am, Thursday, April 7, Luis Gongora, a 45-year-old immigrant from Yucatan, Mexico, and resident of a homeless encampment in the Mission District, was coldly killed by two SFPD cops. According to news reports, earlier that morning a city homeless outreach team working at the encampment called police to report someone waving a large kitchen knife. A security camera recorded the arrival of three squad cars to the encampment. Police exited their patrol cars and rushed towards an area off camera. Within seconds police can be heard shouting, “Stay on the ground, stay on the ground” and “Drop it, drop it”—followed by the sound of cops firing four beanbag gun rounds and seven gunshots from 40-caliber police pistols. Luis Gongora was hit and declared dead shortly after at SF General Hospital.

Luis was fatally wounded in less than 30 seconds from the time the police exited their cars. The executive director of the city’s Coalition on Homelessness, Jennifer Friedenbach, said, “From the video, it appears that the officer came at the situation with guns blazing.”

Shortly after the shooting, SF police chief Greg Suhr told reporters that after the initial volley of beanbag rounds, Gongora “charged” at the officers with a knife, forcing cops to open fire with live rounds. But a witness who was at the encampment, quoted in the San Francisco Chronicle, said that Luis “didn’t charge the officers. He was going round in circles. He didn’t understand what they were saying. They just shot him. They just shot him.” (Luis did not know English and could not have understood the police commands.) Another witness told the UK Guardian that she ran to her apartment window when she heard someone shout, “Get on the ground!” She said about Luis, “He was on the ground, crouched with his head between his knees. He didn’t get up until they were shooting. I would by no stretch of the imagination say that he was charging them. His body was recoiling from bullets. It’s like they came out shooting. It’s complete bullshit what’s happening. There’s no way that somebody deserved to lose their life.”

In a press conference after the murder, a police spokesperson displayed a photo of an approximately 13-inch kitchen knife Luis allegedly had. But numerous witnesses have said that Luis was not brandishing a knife and not threatening anyone, and folks in the encampment pointed out that carrying a knife for self-defense is common among homeless people who live and sleep outside and have few ways to protect themselves and their possessions.

Gongora was regarded as a friendly man who collected bottles and cans and loved to kick a soccer ball around. A resident of an apartment in the area described how her son practiced Spanish by talking with Luis. A friend who lived in a tent near Luis’s, and who was with him shortly before he was killed, tearfully related how Luis always called him “hermano” [brother] and how he and Luis would help each other out and share whatever food or money they managed to come by. “It was half down the middle with everything.”

Why are we still fighting for justice in 2015?

"Why are we still fighting for justice in 2015?" is a clip from the film REVOLUTION AND RELIGION: The Fight for Emancipation and the Role of Religion; A Dialogue Between CORNEL WEST & BOB AVAKIAN. The film is of the November 2014 historic Dialogue on a question of great importance in today's world between the Revolutionary Christian Cornel West and the Revolutionary Communist Bob Avakian. Watch the entire film here.

Luis Gongora was one of the tens of millions driven from homelands ransacked and ruined by the workings of this system of capitalism-imperialism and seeking a way to survive in the U.S. Behind the glitter of the SF Bay Area is cutthroat, expand-or-die competition for big profits within the global networks of capitalist exploitation, especially among high-tech firms and big real estate and financial investors. Huge profits have enriched some—and caused havoc and hardship on many more. Housing prices and rents have spiraled into the stratosphere, along with evictions of those who can’t afford a roof over their heads. Shiny new skyscrapers with multimillion-dollar condos rise while the streets below and areas under freeway overpasses or embankments are lined with tents of the homeless—filled with people discarded by the system and forced to fend for themselves.

According to a 2015 report, 71 percent of San Francisco homeless people formerly had housing in the city. Luis Gongora was one of them. The contrast here could hardly be more stark: The tent community where Luis lived sits within a shrinking Latino immigrant neighborhood, the Mission District—where more than 8,000 Latinos have been forced out in the last 10 years and rents have soared to among the highest in the world. The rising population of the homeless on the streets has caused numerous West Coast cities to declare homeless shelter crises or homeless states of emergency—acts normally reserved for natural disasters.

The powers that be in San Francisco see the rising population of homeless encampments on many city streets as a stain that mars the value of the SF “brand”—as a financial and high-tech center, as a trendy place to live, as a tourist attraction. When San Francisco hosted the Super Bowl 50 spectacle this February, city officials took great pains to force the homeless out of sight of visitors and media. Within days after Luis Gongora’s murder, SF mayor Ed Lee announced that all homeless encampments in the city were going to be taken down! The supposed reason given by the mayor? To make the city “safe.” SAFE?! If this heartless move was about safety of human beings like Luis Gongora, the city officials should have set out to disband the SF police, with their vicious record of murder and mayhem, and Luis’s blood fresh on their hands. But taking down the homeless encampments is not about protecting the safety of people—it’s about protecting the interests of this people-crushing system.

On April 10, the SFPD sent three or four officers to the homeless encampment where Luis had been killed. An activist reported that the police “arrived with long sticks with which they hit the tents. Residents of the tents, including three eyewitnesses to the shooting, were told to leave or risk arrest.” Cops smashed candles that had been lit for Luis by his friends. Some people fled while others started packing their belongings. Cops slashed tents with knives, and a city worker loaded some belongings in a truck. The activist said, “This was an act of harassment plain and simple, because after tearing down three tent homes, the cops just left. They left a mess and they left several homeless people without shelter on a rainy night.”

The taking of Luis Gongora’s life and the cruel and violent attacks on the homeless come amidst a murderous onslaught by SF police over the past several years—as well as important beginning resistance and a scramble among local authorities to try to contain the outrage.

Just hours after Luis Gongora’s murder, the Justice for Mario Woods Coalition held a town hall meeting just a few blocks away. Hundreds of people marched from the meeting to the encampment where Luis was gunned down and on to the Mission District pig sty. Mario Woods was a 26-year-old Black man executed by police early last December in the city’s largely African-American Bayview district. A cell phone video caught the brutal murder of Mario, shot at 40 times by five SFPD thugs in front of a city bus filled with middle school children. The video went viral and set off torrents of angry protests, including disruption of Mayor Lee’s inauguration.

The city has ignored the demands that Police Chief Suhr be fired and murder indictments be brought against the killers of Mario Woods. Instead, the mayor and police chief have trotted out threadbare and pathetic promises to “re-engineer the SFPD’s Use of Force policies” so as to “de-escalate” conflicts.

We now see the results of such promises in the brutal police murder of Luis Gongora! His name has been added to the growing list of those unjustly and outrageously murdered by San Francisco police. Along with Mario Woods, recent victims include Alejandro “Alex” Nieto, Amilcar Perez-Lopez, O’Shaine Evans, Kenneth Harding, Herbert Benitez, Alice Brown, and many more. And they are among the thousands upon thousands of other stolen lives, murdered by police across the country.

Again and again, SF cops murder someone in cold blood, in front of all kinds of witnesses, often captured on video. There is outrage, protests, sometimes powerful protests. Then Chief Suhr gets up in front of everyone and justifies it once more—“the officers feared for their safety,” blah blah blah. And the cops get off, again and again and again. This must be brought to a stop!

Repeated scandals over racist, sexist, and homophobic text messages sent among at least 18 SFPD officers have  also deepened the rage against the police. The first revelations came in court filings from a 2015 federal corruption case involving at least 14 officers, including veterans with more than 10 years on the force. The texts carried vile genocidal rants like “All n*****s must fucking hang” and “Cross burning lowers blood pressure.” In early 2016, a new batch of texts was discovered by prosecutors during an investigation of an alleged sexual assault by an SFPD officer. Again the texts were racist and homophobic, used the “n” word and even mocked the investigation of the original text scandal. The cops in this second round of texts felt completely free with their racist texts even at the time that there was a public scandal over the first round of racist texts. Why? These cops were trained by the system in the outlook of white supremacy, male supremacy, homophobia, and loathing for the masses of poor and oppressed. They knew there is backing for their ugly views from the highest authorities and that this is in line with what they are called on by the system to do every day in the streets.

The powers that be are maneuvering to contain the widening outrage and limit how much more about police murder and brutality comes out, to quell questioning of the legitimacy of the police’s use of force against oppressed communities, and to channel the anger into dead ends of puny reforms and empty promises of “change.” They want this moment of heightened outrage to be a big go-nowhere moment.

But we—those most directly hit by police terror as well everyone who refuses to be silent in the face of these outrages—have to stay in the streets, raising hell, demanding justice, and building the movement for revolution. As part of that, the call for nationwide student protests on April 21 to stop police terror!, issued by students at San Francisco State University and taken up by the Stop Mass Incarceration Network and students at different campuses, is timely and urgent right now.

Luis Gongora came from Yucatan to the U.S., responding to a world in which capitalism-imperialism dominates the globe and reaches into and warps and exploits countries like Mexico. He found himself in the shadows of the SF capitalist “success story,” living in the streets with others forced into a similar situation. Treated like a criminal by the enforcers of this unjust system, he was shot down in cold blood—and the encampment he was part of was ripped to pieces by the cops who forced Luis’s fellow homeless out into the rainy night. This is the capitalist-imperialist system, once again showing everyone it is utterly cold-hearted and vicious, ravaging and destroying lives.

We need a revolution and a whole new system. Nothing less will do.


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