Less than 15 seconds; that is how long it took San Francisco police to use deadly force to brutally kill 45-year old Luis Gongora on April 7. Police arrived just after 10 a.m. to the 400 block of Shotwell Street after homeless outreach workers thoughtlessly summoned police following a purported knife brandishing at a tent encampment, which consequently put at risk all those in the area.
In a video anonymously sent to the SF Chronicle, the footage shows SFPD arriving with three vehicles where by 0:15 they begin to exit their vehicles before quickly making their way to Gongora who according to friends only spoke Spanish and thus could not understand what the police were yelling at him. By 0:38 the first bean bag was fired at the victim, which sounded more like a shotgun than an ostensibly less-harmful weapon. Only six seconds later, after the bean bags, SFPD at 0:44 begin their assault on Gongora showering him with lead bullets. Once the firing squad ceases shooting, one can hear the outrage in response to the needless barrage of bullets from bystanders and friends who had to witness the horror of SFPD’s ruthlessness.
According to the infamous Police Chief Greg Suhr, Gongora was wielding a knife and the police responded by firing their guns. Witnesses, including another homeless man named John Visor, indicate that while Gongora was known to carry a knife, as do most homeless people in the area, it was not in his hand as he walked in circles at the time he was killed. (SFGate)
This incident is all too familiar in the United States, but particularly in San Francisco where SFPD only a few short months ago showered Mario Woods with bullets.
Immediate united fightback response
On the same day as the horrific killing of Luis Gongora, a townhall meeting had been planned in the heart of the Mission District at Buena Vista Horace Mann K-8 School. The meeting, a follow-up to another meeting held in the Bayview District, is part of an ongoing effort to unite the Black and Brown communities and all justice-seeking people to push back against police terrorism. Organized by the Justice 4 Mario Woods, Justice 4 Alex Nieto and Justice 4 Amilcar Perez Lopez Coalitions, the meeting of almost 200 people highlighted the need for unity to build genuine people’s power.
Frank Lara, teacher and member of the ANSWER Coalition, an executive board member of the Justice 4 Mario Woods Coalition, welcomed everyone to the historic school and called it a “sanctuary” for the people’s movement. “A year ago, we hosted the families of the 43 students from Ayotzinapa and today we are proud to host you all who prove to our school that we must not only talk about social justice, but live social justice.” In a room full of veteran activists, community organizers and new but passionate individuals, the message was clear: join the movement, join an organization because the killings will not stop until the cops and city officials feel the pressure and anger of the masses.
In a demonstration of solidarity, the organizers of the townhall organized a last-minute march to the site of the killing of Luis Gongora on the corner of 19th and Shotwell Streets and then marched to the SFPD Mission District station. At the station, the protestors were met by dozens of riot cops. The unnecessary show of force demonstrated how scared cops are of even the mildest form of resistance. And given the continual organizing by the united coalitions, we have yet to see how much power people can have in achieving real justice.