Saturday, December 20, 2014
Hands Up, Public Defender
A protest vigil by the Public Defender's Office, headed by Jeff Adachi below, was held at noon on Thursday in front of San Francisco's Hall of Justice, the one-stop court and jail complex at 8th and Bryant Streets.
The protest was being held in conjunction with Public Defenders' offices throughout the Western states since they are in the front lines when it comes to witnessing institutional racism in the justice system.
Adachi noted that the problem was larger than bigoted police departments, declaring that "We are all complicit. We see judges and prosecutors routinely asking for higher bail and longer sentences for people of color for the same offenses committed by whites. And if public defenders' offices provide a lousy defense, that can be the worst thing imaginable to happen to a defendant."
He pointed out that San Francisco's population is 6% black while 56% of the jail population is black, before urging the small crowd to chant, "Black Lives Matter" for the inmates in the jail above us.
Adachi mostly played emcee for a series of smart speakers, including Oscar Grant's "Uncle Bobby" Johnson above. Johnson had just returned from Phoenix where they are having their own police shooting controversy. When I Googled "Phoenix Police Shooting" to see what the story might be, it turned out that the Phoenix police have shot and killed three different people this month, but the first one was a white cop shooting and killing the black, unarmed Rumain Brisbon.
As Adachi pointed out, the problem is structural and everywhere, not just Ferguson or Staten Island or Cleveland or San Francisco.
According to Yolanda Jackson above, the new Executive Director of the Bar Association of San Francisco, lawyers of all stripes need to be part of the effort to change the system, and quantifying the injustice is going to be a huge part of that effort.
The vigil ended with four and a half minutes of silence on the Hall of Justice steps, in remembrance of the four and a half hours that Michael Brown was left on the streets to die in Ferguson.
I used to write more about local politics on this blog but found the provincial, corrupt San Francisco City Family too depressing to think about after a while. There are a few exceptions among San Francisco's elected officials, and Public Defender Jeff Adachi is first in line, the most admirable local politician I have met since Harvey Milk. He's smart, compassionate, honest, an inspiring leader, and a great speaker. We would be lucky to have him as Mayor of San Francisco, but that will never happen, partly because he had the temerity to point out during the last mayor's race that the current municipal compensation and pension system is unsustainable, particularly among public safety unions. You don't say those kind of things and get elected Mayor.