Got justice?

Tomorrow evening, Friday, November 22, there will be a candlelight vigil at 5:00 pm, 15th and Guerrero Streets in San Francisco, to protest the beating of D’Paris Williams one week earlier by plainclothes police officers of the San Francisco Police Department. D’Paris lives in Valencia Gardens, one of only a few public housing complexes in our absurdly-expensive City. It seems that he was beaten in front of his own house as he was returning home from the “Batkid” festivities.

All the evidence I can find indicates that D’Paris committed no crime before he was beaten. Witnesses of the incident immediately objected to his treatment, and three more were beaten and arrested. Now: the Chief of Police, Greg Suhr, says “the public’s trust is everything to us.” That is correct: enforcement of law and order is only feasible when the population trusts and respects the police to serve the public, abide by their oath, and act as Peace Officers. If they violate that oath by beating a man who has committed no crime, then exactly the same law should apply to them: prosecution for felony assault. If the SFPD fires these officers and prosecutes them, then some trust in the SFPD will be restored.

At the end of two of the articles I have linked to, anonymous posters have made grossly prejudiced comments about D’Paris. I am dismayed, but the cowardly honesty of such comments reveals the degree of racism that persists here in San Francisco. This bigotry is also tied directly to gentrification: only two blocks south of the site of this beating, Valencia Street is undergoing some of the most dramatic gentrification in the United States. A criminal record imposed on a young black man would be grounds for his eviction from Valencia Gardens, and from the City as a whole. It would be one more step towards making San Francisco a symbol of injustice, intolerance, and racial segregation. Is this what we want San Francisco to represent?

I am a public servant of the State of California. I teach the principles of justice to hundreds of students every year. I hope you will join me in praying for D’Paris Williams, Orlando Rodriguez, Antoine Bradford, and every other young man who had been unjustly beaten and then accused of assault by the very same officers who beat him. I hope to see you tomorrow night.

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