Why San Francisco Giants Fans Are Rallying Against Police Brutality

On October 16, during Game 5 of the National League Championship Series between the San Francisco Giants and St. Louis Cardinals, a group of Giants fans and community members came together outside AT&T Park to protest police brutality. Organizers sought to show solidarity with St. Louis County residents following the shooting of Michael Brown, and to draw connections to the recent San Francisco police killings of Alex Nieto and O’Shaine Evans.

Demonstrators stood below the larger-than-life statue of Willie Mays outside the stadium, holding signs and leading chants inspired by baseball terminology and the Ferguson protests. Organizers also launched a sailboat covered in banners into iconic McCovey Cove, a creek mouth flowing into the bay just beyond right field, where fans often go out in boats hoping to catch Giants home runs, affectionately dubbed “splash hits.”

After the rally, protest organizer Juana Teresa Tello said, “Both cities want our teams to win, but it’s important for both cities to know that no one wins when police brutality happens.”

Strike Out Police Brutality! from Rebecca Pierce on Vimeo.

In a phone interview, Tello said that the protest elicited a generally positive, if sometimes mixed response from fans, saying, “There was a lot of support from the local people, and it was mostly people of color who resonated with the message...and there was some reaction from fans where you could see in their demeanor that they didn’t support what we were about.”

The generally calm climate around AT&T park during the demonstration contrasted with the overt violence inflicted on protesters at a St. Louis Rams game this Sunday, when a black woman and her daughter were beaten and spit on by fans, and then arrested by police.

Family members of Alex Nieto and O’Shaine Evans were present at the San Francisco rally. Nieto, a 28-year-old Latino security guard, was shot 14 times by police in a Bernal Heights park on March 21, after neighbors called 911 claiming his work taser was a gun. Police claimed that Nieto pointed his taser at them when they approached, and that they were unable to distinguish it from a gun, an assertion family members have questioned. His death inflamed tensions between long-time Bernal Heights residents, police and a growing tech industry gentrifier class, which some activists blamed for calling the police. Nieto’s family filed a civil rights lawsuit against the city of San Francisco in August.

O’Shaine Evans, a 26-year-old African-American resident of Oakland, was killed during the Giants vs. Nationals playoff game on October 7, blocks away from AT&T Park. Police say they first approached Evans when they saw him and a friend stealing a laptop from a parked Mercedes SUV. Local news stories appeared to suggest a changing narrative from police who were first reported as saying that Evans failed to drop an unloaded gun immediately when an officer ordered him to, and later stated that he actually pointed the weapon at the officer, prompting him to shoot. At least seven bullets were fired, and Evans’ friend was also critically injured in the shooting. 

The officer in question was wearing a shirt over his uniform at the time, and family members say he might not have been readily identifiable when he approached Evans. At the protest on Thursday, Evans’ older sister Cadine Williams said, “My brother didn’t have a chance to defend himself and say what happened in that car, [the officer] just cold-blooded murdered my brother.”

In calling attention to the killings of Nieto and Evans, protesters shone a light on often under-scrutinized police killings, in which victims are alleged to have been armed or involved in criminal activity at the time of their deaths. Over the phone, Tello said, "The point that we're trying to make is that when cops interact with people of color, their instinct and reaction is always to violence, without having due process like other people would have."


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