Civil Rights

Civil rights attorney John Burris to sue SFPD over alleged Valencia Gardens profiling

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Prominent civil rights lawyer John Burris will sue the SFPD on behalf of the family of D’Paris “DJ” Williams, after a neighborhood brawl involving police at the Valencia Gardens housing project that Burris called “outrageous.” 

Last Friday, 20 year old D’Paris Williams was bicycling to his cousins’ house from the Batkid festivities downtown when plainclothes police officers from the Violence Reduction Team, a narcotics and firearms reduction squad, attempted to detain him for riding his bike on the sidewalk. In the confusion, a brawl broke out with the police, Williams, and three neighbors. Video was recorded of the incident, which quickly went viral. 

After seeing a bloody and beaten Williams carried to a squad car by police in the video clip, his family and the residents of Valencia Gardens have posed the question: why? 

Why did plainclothes officers tasked with the mission of seizing guns stop a young man coasting on his bike on a sidewalk for a few feet? The family said they believe Williams was targeted because he was a young man of color visiting a housing project.

“When young people are brutally assaulted by the police, there must be accountability,” Burris told the Guardian. Read more »

Social liberalism beats economic populism?

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Eric Alterman, who writes on media for The Nation, has a book out on the history of liberalism in America and a fascinating essay in The New York Times on how progessives lost the economic war. It's hard to make a case this complicated in a few hundred words, so he sounds as if he's somewhat downplaying the importance of civil rights. Read more »

Brown says Lee shouldn't have taken Mirkarimi's pay away

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As Mayor Ed Lee continues to duck questions about why he suspended Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi without pay or due process, even former Mayor Willie Brown – who helped elevate Lee into Room 200 – is second-guessing the decision and its legality.Read more »

This is our country, too: Fred Korematsu's daughter on her father's civil rights legacy

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“One never knows after someone dies what happens to their legacy. Sometimes it becomes a part of history and sometimes it grows,” Karen Korematsu -remarked in a phone interview with the Guardian this week. Her father, civil rights activist Fred Korematsu, will be honored statewide with his own official day on Mon/30. You can celebrate his legacy locally at the Oakland Museum of California’s Lunar New Year event on Sun/29, where Karen will be speaking about her dad’s contribution to our cultural heritage. Read more »

Same-sex marriages set to resume in California

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Same-sex marriages in California will resume on Aug. 18, barring a higher court issuing a stay. Judge Vaughn Walker today announced that he is removing the stay against new same-sex marriages that was in place since his ruling last week that Proposition 8, the 2008 ballot measure banning gay men and lesbians from getting married, was unconstitutional.Read more »

Occupation! exhibit highlights racism at SF businesses

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By Cécile Lepage

San Francisco has always had a liberal streak, but not so its business community, as a current exhibit highlights. In 1963 and ‘64, San Francisco was hit with massive demonstrations that denounced businesses’ discriminatory hiring practices and demanded equal work opportunity for African-Americans. Crowds picketed on Auto Row, in front of Mel’s Drive-In, Lucky Store, the Sheraton Palace Hotel, and Bank of America.

The Main Library exhibit “Occupation! Economic Justice as a Civil Right in San Francisco, 1963-64” retraces a struggle for economic justice that was specific to the city by the Bay, where thousands of African-Americans had moved to during World War II to work on the shipyards. When the war effort wound down, they were the first to be fired. Only direct actions—sit-ins, sleep-ins, and shop-ins—were able to shake the status quo: they led to more than 260 employment agreements for minority workers. There’s only a few days left to discover this important yet underrepresented piece of SF history: the display ends on March 27. Read more »