Sunday, September 27, 2020
Arts + Culture 'Lowrider Lawyers' put the city on trial

‘Lowrider Lawyers’ put the city on trial

New movie uses music, humor, and truth to address the killing of Alex Nieto.


A lowrider lawyer questions a police officer in the new movie
A lowrider lawyer questions a police officer in the new movie

SCREEN GRABS A cherry lipstick red 1974 Chevrolet glided down 24th street in La Mision, as it’s called by La Raza and so many other working class communities throughout the centuries who built this beautiful barrio after the missionaries stole it from the Ohlone Nation.

As the Chevy rolled past each block, its shining gold-rimmed tires seemed to fly above the newest invaders, the hipsters and tech workers, tipping over their $4 coffees and vegan donuts as they walked along the street as if they had always been here.

The Chevy stopped in front of the Brava theatre, where the new movie was showing: Lowrider Lawyers: Putting a City on Trial, about the community taking back the courts for justice for Alex Nieto. A young Xicano man emerged, wearing a red 49ers jacket and a snap-back cap. He moved slowly toward the front door of the theatre and then disappeared into the atmosphere.
The Brava theatre was filled with amor for Alex last Sunday. The humble spirit of Nieto, a life-long Mission resident and scholarship student, danced on the backs of the theatre chairs and throughout the audience. His quiet revolutionary love surrounded the sold-out crowd of attendees.  

“Alex Nieto, you made the world better…When you visited there was always laughter…”  Margarita Bac Sierra, the 12-year-old daughter of movie director Ben Bac Sierra, opened the beautiful event with a poem of love to te “Tio” (uncle) who she had known all her life before he was killed by police for being brown as he ate his burrito on Bernal Hill before he had to report to his job as a security guard.

Her poem was part of a powerful opening program that included hip Hop skolaz Equipto and Dregs 1 and the beautiful, undying love and scholarship of Ben Bac Sierra, poet, organizer, teacher, and writer.
“How did you know he was a gang member?” The lowrider lawyers raised questions at a People’s Trial that unfolded on the screen. They were discussing the events that led to a 911 call to the police about Nieto.

A man called Mr. Wolf, hilariously played by community organizer Al Osorio, answered with confusion: “Because he was wearing a red jacket.”

“How do you know that a red jacket and cap means he is a gang member?” the lowrider lawyer continued to probe
“Because I have seen them on TV,” Mr. Wolf concluded looking blankly.
The dialogue was adapted from depositions taken in the Nieto family’s civil suit against the city.

This movie is a powerful and urgent example of what we at POOR Magazine call poverty scholarship, La gente, the people taking back the courts, the institutions of so-called justice, power and oppression that constantly support the testing, arresting, and incarcerating of every poor and person of color they get.

Written and directed by Benjamin Bac Sierra and filmed and edited by Peter Menchini with music by Dr Loco (Jose Cueller) and Favi Estrella, and lowrider lawyers played by community leaders, Frisco residents, mission homegirls and homeboys and the amazing Ben Bac Sierra.
“Community media, social media, these film showings and the rallies are all so important to keep the truth coming out, Adante Pointer, conscious lawyer who is representing Alex Nieto’s family in the upcoming trial beginning March 1, said at the post-film community panel that also included Roberto Hernandez, Edwin Lindo and Thea Mathews. “Because the mainstream media will come out with their usual narrative which will be an attack on Alex’s character and we need to counter that with the truth.”
Ben saved the best for last, closing this magical day of spirit and art with Alex Nieto singing La mananitas ( Happy Birthday) carrying us out of the theatre with his amor.

The movie is a must see, deep and real and dense with life and musica and truth, too short like my fellow POOR magazine staff writer Leroy Moore who went with me said. And like the rhythm from the Aztec danzantes huetlhuetl from the opening scene in the courtroom, which penetrated the settler colonial laws that protect the modern day settler class, with spirit, truth and consciousness, Lowrider Lawyers is not only an act of artistic liberation but of our collective liberation as peoples, as youth, as community in unity.

Tiny, aka Lisa Grey Garcia, is an editor at POOR Magazine and a 48hills contributor. Ben is asking all conscious community to join the family at the upcoming court trial, which will begin in early March. For more information go on-line to facebook- justice for Alex Nieto killed by SFPD


  1. “good shot” – Sam has used this before- as has been stated before, these terms reveal what Sam is really about

  2. You’ll get no takers on the bet that the witness who contradicts the cops is expecting a payoff. By the same token, I won’t get any takers on my bet that you bribe building inspectors to overlook complaints about your rental properties. It’s all about money after all.

    Usually cops don’t conspire to shoot a suspect to death. It’s more likely to be a spur of the moment decision guided by training and prediliction, and that’s where the SFPD falls short. They are too quick to use their firearms and get what you call “a good shoot.”

    Burris, the attorney representing the Nieto family, is known for civil cases like this. If it goes to trial there will be a lot of information we don’t have yet. What does the autopsy say about the position of Nieto’s arms when he was shot? What did the police know about the suspect going in? Did they, or should they have known he was armed with a taser and not a firearm? How many 911 reports about Nieto were called in, and what did they say? If the police believed Nieto had a firearm, should they have confronted him face-on or remained under behind cover and ordered him to surrender?

    The same thing goes for Woods. Suhr and Ed Lee will hide behind the stun gun defense, but the fact is that Woods did not pose a serious threat to the assembled police. What he did was try to walk away. That may have been stupid (and perhaps Nieto was too) but stupid is not a crime punishable by death. If it was, there are a whole lot of us, including any number of cops, who would be dead by now.

  3. In theory, yes, witnesses cannot profit from their testimony. But I’d be willing to bet that this witness who suddenly and magically appeared when a lawsuit was filed has some skin in the game, either financial or ideological. Why else did they not come forward at the time?

    Civil actions are all about money. Money for the lawyers, money for the family and, no doubt, some of it will be sprayed around if the right person says the right thing. And especially since the city never seems to fight these opportunistic suits but rather caves in. After all, it’s not their money ultimately.

    I would need a compelling reason to believe that every one of the cops present is committing perjury. Just like I would need a compelling reason to believe that they all conspired to shoot an innocent guy eating a burrito.

  4. A payday for a witness. Wouldn’t that violate the law? I’m not saying that cops can’t be credible witnesses, I just don’t automatically assume they are, particularly after they have

  5. So a cop cannot be a credible witness in your opinion? But an anti-cop zealot is? I find it deeply disturbing that you have sympathy for violent criminals but none for those who protect us from them.

    This alleged eye witness said nothing at the time but now conveniently shows up when there is a potential payday? Not buying it. And what would be the motive for shooting a perp if he was quietly sitting and posing no threat? Why do you think the cops were called in the first place. And again, why no criminal charges if it really went down the way you claim?

    When discussing police matters it is reasonable to use the language that they use. But then I empathize with our peace officers and you empathize with violent felons. But of course if I am called for jury duty on this case, I would moderate any such language.

  6. Damn $am. Would you get your facts straight? First you say that “every credible eye witness account indicates that this was a good shoot.” Then you say that only police officers were eye witnesses. Credible eye witness account implies bystanders and cannot be used interchangeably with police officers.

    Then you say that everyone else had been chased away by Nieto’s actions You ignored the deposition filed in the civil suit and reported by Redmond from a man who said he was 20 feet away and saw Nieto with his hands in his pockets at the time of the shooting, casting doubt on the claim that Neito was pointing a taser at the cops. I know you saw Redmond’s column because you commented on it.

    Then you mix in Dennis Herrera and STRs before concluding that the Nieto family will get a settlement from the city. Those are a lot of assumptions.

    Finally, you assert that your inflamatory language mirrors that of the police. I hope that’s not the case, but if it is, I hope it’s not toned down when the case goes to trial.

    Bottom line, $am, is that people should not take your assertions of fact too literally.

  7. The cops were the only eye witnesses because everyone else had run away from a gun-wielding maniac.

    Who knows what a civil trial will decide, especially since the city attorney would rather go after home sharers then defend their own sworn officers. No doubt the city will throw a million or two at the family of this demented loser – the same loser they took out a restraining order against

    I used phrases that the police would use, since we are discussing a police matter.

  8. Tell the truth here $am. The only eyewitness accounts I am aware of, besides those cited by Redmond from the lawsuit filed by Nieto’s family, were from the officers who shot to death Nieto. Are they credible? A jury will decide.

    I suggest more care in your use of language. Phrases like “neutralize him” and “a good shoot” may reveal more about you than you like.

  9. Nieto was an immediate and imminent threat to those around him on that evening, and the police had no option but to neutralize him. Every credible eye witness account I have seen indicates that this was a good shoot.

  10. Tiny is a renowned nutjob. There are some smart people on the left but she isn’t one of them. She is way too angry and bitter to be a coherent and persuasive voice for the downtrodden that she claims so glibly to represent.

  11. same as Tod: by attacking Lisa Tiny Grey Garcia – you avoid the truth: the SFPD cops killed- brutally murdered, Alex Nieto.

  12. by attacking Tiny, aka Lisa Grey Garcia – you are deliberately avoiding the crux of the article: Alex Nieto was murdered by the police.

  13. “the settler colonial laws that protect the modern day settler class”

    You go, Tiny! You go, girl! Put the “settler class” in its place. Send all Caucazoids, Asians, Hispanicos and Negoids back where they came from.


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