By Rachel Berning
Hosted in the parking lot of the Multi-Use Building on Ocean Campus, the second annual Alex Nieto lowrider memorial “King of the Streets” gathered thousands last July.
The event was hosted by Professor Benjamin Bac Sierra and organized by the San Francisco lowrider community to honor the memory of a City College student murdered by the San Francisco Police Department in 2014.
“We organized and became the biggest movement ever in the history of the United States, to defend the honor of a latino victim of a police killing” said Bac Sierra.
Families of the lowrider car-enthusiast community gathered from various states such as Arizona, Washington and California to memorialize Nieto’s name and show support for victims of police brutality.
Lowriders, also known as “Cars with identities”, have been around for 80 years and play a central role in California Latinx culture. Los Angeles Mexican-American youth invented the “low and slow” car, during the mid 1940s.
Lowriding was an automotive update to an old country tradition. It was an extension of the Mexican cultural called “the paseo”. In 1958, California made it illegal to drive a car with low wheel rims. The following year the Chevy Impala was released. Lowriding became one of the elements of the Latino culture.
“Take what you Americans have, and turn it around. It’s time to make our own America,” said Bac Sierra, describing the lowriding subculture.
Nieto’s parents emigrated from Mexico to the Bay Area in the 1970’s. Nieto lived with his brother Hector and his parents in the Bernal Heights neighborhood.
On Mar. 21, 2014 Nieto was sitting in Bernal Heights park before his shift as a security job at a nearby nightclub when he was shot 59 times by police who were called to the scene by recent residents to the neighborhood.
Claiming self-defense, the officer that shot Nieto believed he was gang-affiliated as he was wearing a red jacket and carrying a taser.
Following the shooting, the heavily Latinx lowrider community took a firm stance on Nieto’s innocence, and cited police relations with their marginalized community as the cause for Nieto’s untimely death.
Family, friends and lowriders portrayed Nieto to be a law-abiding citizen, who was family and community oriented, as he had no prior history of arrest and worked as a youth counselor for five years.
Alex Nieto will always be the hero for many members of the Latino community. He will always be remembered as “The King of the Streets”.