Filipinos, other residents march against violence in SF neighborhood
• South of Market Area scene of fatal incidents
• San Francisco has 7.8 violent criminal incidents per 1,000 residents
SAN FRANCISCO, California — “Silence the violence and increase the peace,” “Mapayapang SOMA” and “Kapayapaan sa SOMA.”
Placards held by marchers young and old, men women and children of the South of Market area (SOMA)—which has a large Filipino population–carried these messages during a peace rally on August 25, decrying the tide of violence that has plagued their streets in the last months.
In a May 2014 study by the Asian Pacific Islander Council released only recently, the citywide average violent crime rate in 2013 was approximately 7.8 incidents per 1,000 residents. SOMa and nearby areas had the most number of violent incidents in San Francisco.
Violent cases only refer to robbery, assault and sexual violence with the exclusion of homicide cases and property crimes.
Officers and members of the West Bay Pilipino Multi-services Center, United Playaz, SOMCAN, and City Crossroads came together to sound the alarm that with the continuing incidents of violence their security, especially that of the children under their care, is facing serious threats.
The rally was coordinated and spearheaded by the West Bay Center through Executive Director Vivian Araullo to get support not just from the police, but also from the city government and other sectors of the community.
Last July, two young men were reportedly killed on 6th street on the same day. One was 18-year–old Daniel Beltran, who was shot dead early in the morning after an argument with two suspects whose door Beltran had the mistake of knocking on. The two suspects were later arrested in Fremont.
The other victim was 25-year-old Filipino Marc Anthony Salumbides of Pacifica who was gunned down before the end of the same day also after an altercation just a hundred of feet away from where Beltran was shot. Salumbides left a young baby girl, and his family started a fund drive for his memorial.
“We want to make sure that violence and killings stop as we do have families with a lot of kids that live in District 6,” stated Rex Tabora Vice President of West Bay Pilipino Multi-services.
He added: “We are providing services here especially after school activities for children to keep them off the streets and prepare them for a brighter future. How can we do that if violence around continues?”
National Federation of Filipino American Association (NaFFAA) local executive director Rudy Asercion who, during his time in the West Bay Center, also did his share in stopping the violence in SOMA.
“One life lost is one too many. That is the reason why I am here. We intend to promote peace and to stop the violence and the killing,” conveyed Asercion. “We want to support the kids of course. Hopefully we are going to increase the awareness about the violence and having bloodshed in the area. Two young dead victims in South of Market and 6th Street were half-Filipino and half-Latino.”
District 9 Supervisor David Campos announced that 14-year-old Rashawn Williams was stabbed dead in the heart just two days before by another 14-year-old boy who was a former classmate, reportedly due to envy and jealousy.
A freshman at Sacred Heart Cathedral Preparatory, Rashawn was on his way out of a store at 26th and Folsom streets with his younger brother when he was attacked by the knife-wielding boy. He was rushed to the San Francisco General Hospital but died later.
Rashawn earned a scholarship in Sacred Heart after earning straight A’s at Buena Vista Horace Mann School where he met and became classmates with his attacker. He dreamed of attending college at Harvard University.
“There is nothing harder in this job when you hear a young person’s life ended abruptly because of violence just like what happened to Rashawn Williams,” Campos stressed.
“Playing by the rules doing everything right, stabbed in the heart by another young person it is a tragedy all around both for the families of the victim and the suspect,” Campos added.
“To the young people who are here, you have to commit yourself to changing your heart to making sure you treat everyone with respect, making sure that we take care of each other because you cannot be safe unless your brother and sister are safe.”
According to law enforcers, these incidents are often the results of uncontrolled emotions.
“Some of the cases were about groups of kids arguing about some minor things, ending up into fistfights then all of a sudden somebody pulling out a gun,” Police Captain William Roualdes of the southern station told INQUIRER.net.
“They just got more heated. I think it is machismo of certain people when they think they are better than other people they don’t realize how much they are hurting themselves and the others too,“
Roualdes said that marches for peace should make kids think more about peace and not violence even as he also emphasized the need for them to have a good relationship with the police officers working in the area.
Speaking for the office of San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee, education adviser Hydra Mendoza expressed support for the peace march, especially for the young people.
“We are honoring the two young men caught up in the violence recently in July and this is about stopping the violence (by) showing support for our young people” Mendoza said.
“We also support the move to have our communities come together to stop the violence to our young people.”
Mendoza added that the mayor’s office has been working towards limiting gun possession by embarking on the gun buy-backs, which is a big part of their strategy.
“We are doing something to take as many guns off the street because that is a very large part of the violence that continues to happen. In our schools throughout the city we also make sure that we have wellness centers and care resource centers so students have safe places to go particularly when they are challenged by violence in the streets,” Mendoza pointed out.
Araullo, for her part, emphasized the need for a multilateral solution to the violence in the community as no one group can do it singlehandedly.
“Not just the community organizations, not just the government, not just the cops, not just business can solve this by themselves alone. We all have to work together to be able to come out with a collaborative solution to the problem of violence not just in this community but in other communities as well,” Araullo underscored.
Araullo also noted that “the number of people that came out to support tells me how important this issue against violence really is. If you can bring out more than a hundred people to march for peace, that only means one thing. It is a real issue that needs to be addressed.”