‘The Future is Black’ and Alex Nieto murals erased from Bernal Heights Road
During a walk in the park last week, a resident noticed an unusual sight: park employees painting a section of the Bernal Heights Park walking path.
Upon closer inspection, employees of the San Francisco Parks and Recreation Department covered two huge murals that unfolded on the cobbled path that crosses Bernal Hill’s scenic vistas. The murals recalled racism and police brutality.
One, reading “The Future is Black,” was painted during the height of the Black Lives Matter protests that swept the country in mid-2020.
The other was a tribute to Alex Nieto, a 28-year-old Bernal Heights resident who was shot in a hail of bullets by four SFPD officers in 2014. Nieto’s memorial was painted a few weeks earlier, at the the time of the 8- anniversary of his death on March 21.
“Covering this mural represents the continued erasure of brown people in the Bernal, but also SF as a whole,” DoggTown activist Dro said in a statement to Mission Local. “We are being murdered, incarcerated and aggressively displaced by excessive policing, economic exclusion and gentrification. They erased his life and then erased his name.
Without murals like the one of Nieto’s name to serve as a reminder, DoggTown Dro said “mistakes” similar to those that led to Nieto’s death would continue to be repeated. Nieto was eating a burrito in the park when a resident called police on him, mistaking his Taser, which he carried for his job as a bouncer, for a handgun.
“I understand why people wouldn’t want to remember this, but it’s our job to say their names, paint their names in the street, do what we can to ensure this shit doesn’t happen again,” he said. said a resident who asked to be identified as a Lion.
Lion said he walked the trails of Bernal Heights Park daily with his dog and witnessed the painting of the murals. “Seeing this erased made my heart ache when they did it, and now I have to go through their cover-up every day.”
Rec and Park, in a statement to Mission Local, confirmed they deleted the two “unauthorized posts” on April 6, citing an increase in graffiti.
“Memorials, murals and artwork have all found their way into our parks through the proper channels,” read the department’s statement to Mission Local.
The Nieto family has a sanctioned memorial with rocks, flowers and photographs in the park that remains untouched, and the department said it is working with the family to plan a permanent memorial in the park.
This isn’t the first activist mural to be removed in Bernal Heights; you may remember the Black Lives Matter rock at the top of the same hill that should have been repainted six times after a “Spraypaint Sally” continued to paint on it.
To the community’s outrage, the Public Works Department once painted on the rock, and the Chronicle reported that the department’s acting director issued an apology, promising not to erase the art from the rock again. .
Rec and Park, meanwhile, seem unapologetic and apparently consider the road’s murals, including the one she left untouched for nearly two years, to be unauthorized graffiti. The ministry did not respond to questions about why the mural was suddenly removed.
“Graffiti in our parks has exploded during the pandemic,” the department’s statement continued. “In the three and a half months of 2022, we have reduced 44 separate incidences of graffiti in Bernal Heights Park alone.” The department said in 2019 it counted 50 such cases.