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

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Civil rights attorney John Burris notably fought legal battles against OPD's "riders" and BART police on behalf of Oscar Grant.
AP photo by Jeff Chiu

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.

Williams’ step-father, Frank Williams, an ex-offender who now works with the Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice, was shaken when he first heard what happened to his son, DJ. “I know there are some good cops, some are my friends,” he said.  “But there are some bad cops. What ran through my mind was how he got profiled like that, just because. I don’t like how it happened, and how they justified it.”

The SFPD was unavailable for comment at press time. All they found on DJ Williams was juice and a cupcake. 

A protest defending D'Paris Williams and the three other men hurt and detained in the brawl marched in the Mission Tuesday, and another protest is planned for tonight at 5pm at 15th and Guerrero. 

Click here for our previous coverage of the Valencia Gardens incident

Comments

I admit, I'm bad. When they ask me if I can set my biases aside, I perjure myself and say that I cannot. You probably perjured yourself and said you can. It's just not worth it to me to serve on a jury. I lose too much money. Maybe when they pay me what my time is worth, I'll serve. For now, I'll just have to trust that the pool of unemployed, government workers, and poor people will make a good decision. And I do. San Francisco juries generally do a good job. In a way, it's probably best that they don't replace your pay. Less 6 figure types and businessmen serving that way.

Posted by Greg on Nov. 25, 2013 @ 7:17 pm

But you're right about one thing - some of the people who most want to serve on a jury aren't the people you'd want on them. Part of why I like to do it is to help redress that balance.

Good to see you admitting you are biased though. I've been saying that for a while.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 26, 2013 @ 6:38 am

I ride my bike on the sidewalk all the time and never has a cop stopped me for it. Maybe I have illegal stuff in my pockets. Maybe I am white and they assume I am not packing. Maybe they are wrong.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 25, 2013 @ 9:08 pm

and gun crimes are routine? Do you wear "gangsta" clothes and display a menacing demeanor? Do you look furtive and evasive? Do you have a hoodie drawn over your face even in warm weather?

The cops know the indicators and have the experience to know who is up to no good.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 26, 2013 @ 6:36 am

According to SFPD data, Valencia Gardens is not a center of gun crime in the neighborhood:

http://www.crimemapping.com/map.aspx?ll=-13627843.116885008,4546501.3156...

Nor is Valencia Gardens a center of drug crime in the neighborhood:

http://www.crimemapping.com/map.aspx?ll=-13627843.116885008,4546498.6284...

Posted by marcos on Nov. 26, 2013 @ 7:08 am

We don't need 24/7 police observation of mansions in Presidio Heights.

Glad we agree.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 26, 2013 @ 7:31 am

Tell me again how beating cyclists bearing cupcakes and juice bloody prevents crime? The rebuild of VG broke up the gangs that made VG home and they've not returned. That is what made VG safer. The cops avoid doing their job where there are actually armed criminals.

Posted by marcos on Nov. 26, 2013 @ 7:52 am

direct result of him trying to evade a police stop, and acting in a hostile and menacing manner, both of which constitute prima facie evidence that he was carrying something a lot worse than a cupcake.

Which in turn begs the question of why the kid acted like he was guilty when he wasn't (at least not on that occasion).

Was the cupcake tested for THC?

Posted by Guest on Nov. 26, 2013 @ 8:15 am

but that looks like a shit-ton of drugs and guns within a 3-4 block radius of VG. Thank God we have cops in the area.

(which isn't to say I approve of what went down in this case, guess we'll see how a jury feels about it)

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