40 years ago, San Francisco lowriders organized to fight police harassment — and won


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A Lowrider rides on three-wheels on Sunset Blvd., in the Echo Park neighborhood of Los Angeles in July.

Damian Dovarganes/AP


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Damian Dovarganes/AP

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Roberto Y. Hernandez, founder and president of the San Francisco Lowrider Council, stands at the entrance to an exhibit about the council at the Mission Cultural Center for Latino Arts.

Roberto Y. Hernandez


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Roberto Y. Hernandez

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Visitors to the Peterson Automobile Museum in Los Angeles examine the Gypsy Rose, a 1964 Chevrolet Impala and one of the most famous lowriders in history, in this 2008 file photo.

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Ric Francis/AP

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Lowriders bounce as high as possible during a car hopping contest at the Los Angeles Coliseum in 1996.

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The San Francisco Lowrider Council plaque on display at the Mission Cultural Center for Latino Arts.

Roberto Y. Hernandez


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Roberto Y. Hernandez

The San Francisco Lowrider Council’s 40-year trajectory was just memorialized in an exhibit at the Mission Cultural Center for Latino Arts. San Francisco city officials even proclaimed a recent Saturday as «Lowrider Day.»

According to Alonzo, who is also a member of the council, lowriders are viewed much differently now than they were in decades past.

«I got pulled over a couple times by some cops, and it wasn’t because I was riding dirty or anything like that or I had any violations or anything like that or my registration was invalid or anything like that,» Alonzo said. «They pulled me over because they wanted to see my hydraulic setup.»

Ulloa, who hosted a virtual academic conference on lowrider culture this year, said that growing popularity has come with a catch: the cost to participate in the once blue-collar hobby has jumped. «It’s redefining who can get in, where and under what circumstances people are quote unquote buying into the culture,» he said. «That is causing some dissonance from within the culture as well, because people are getting priced out of the game.»

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These days, the San Francisco Lowrider Council remains a diverse organization, Hernandez said.

«We were stereotyped by the media and by a lot of people as being drug dealers and gangbaners and whatnot,» said Hernandez, who is also a community organizer and launched the Mission Food Hub during the COVID-19 pandemic.

«Part of that stereotype went like, ‘Well, how could they afford these kinds of cars and put all that money into cars?'» he added. «Well, we work!»

Members of the council include university professors, teachers, lawyers, construction workers, dishwashers and a sheriff.

  • mission
  • San Francisco
  • Police

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