This is a picture of Br. Damien walking in a vigil for Luis Demetrio Gongora Pat, the man who was experiencing homelessness and ended up getting shot and killed by the police this morning. Behind him is a line up of police on motorcycles who followed us while we marched.
Luis, the man who was killed, was a man who had been living in an apartment in the Mission, but was evicted and ended up on the street. He is one of many residents that was displaced due to gentrification.
Some may assume that since Division street has been cleared the sweeps have stopped… but that is not the case. In fact, lately the police harassment has been even worse. On Monday folks were telling me about a man being pulled out of his tent and arrested…. because of a warrant…. for “quality of life” citations, such as sitting, sleeping, camping, etc. SFPD has been running names looking for folks with warrants. When they are taken to jail their tent and all of their belongings are trashed.
Keep in mind that there still hasn’t been a place where people can “move along” to. The stress has really been getting to people. I often encounter people in tears who tell me they just can’t handle it anymore. They are a constant target. They are being tortured.
This morning I received a call from a woman who lives in a tent on the street… she was displace from Division and her tent and belongings were trashed. She’s a senior with extremely serious health issues and requires a wheelchair to get around. This woman is amazing… she’s leads bible studies with folks in encampments and she’s always telling me how her faith is what gives her hope and keeps her going. This morning… once again… the police were harassing her and telling her she had to “move along” or they would confiscate her tent and belongings… again. I was on the phone with her and could hear them.
She’s a disabled senior who requires a wheelchair to get around…. how in the hell is she supposed to constantly move all of her belongings?! This is literally killing her. I’ve been watching her health deteriorate dramatically.
It’s important to know that there are a lot of sick seniors living on the street and when their belongings get trashed that usually means their medication gets dumped too. Imagine this happening to your parents or your grandparents. This is how elders in our community are treated. It’s shameful.
I was at the bus stop on my way home from the vigil tonight and a homeless man looked at me and said “Your eyes look sad.” That surprised me, but some people have the ability to see a lot in your eyes… I can see a lot in the eyes of others. Today was a sad day… but the killing of this young man also makes me angry. I’m angry that our broken system is responding to a health and housing crisis with law enforcement…. with guns. People are being traumatized and pushed to their limits. It was just a matter of time before someone in the encampments was shot and killed by a police officer. This isn’t the first…. and it won’t be the last.
This was a sad day, but still hold on to hope… hope for change. I was happy to see Br. Damien out there tonight…. there needs to be more religious and people of faith in the struggle. Often people prefer to do charity when it comes to homelessness, rather than justice…. but without justice, there is no charity.
Some tell me they are choosing to stay neutral on the issue of the criminalization of homelessness and things like the sweeps. If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.