San Francisco Police Beat a Man for Riding His Bike on the Sidewalk

After the whole Batkid thing ended in San Francisco, the SFPD reminded the city that they actually are the ones to dispense justice as they see fit, beating an unarmed man named DJ Williams for riding his bike on the sidewalk.

Nov 20 2013, 6:24pm

On Friday, the San Francisco Police Department took a brief respite from writing parking tickets and evicting minorities to facilitate a citywide act of goodwill; letting a little kid with cancer pretend to be the Batman. This pos-vibes fiesta lasted only a few hours before ending with the unexplained SFPD beating of 20-year-old D'Paris “DJ” Williams as he was biking home after the day’s festivities to his apartment in Valencia Gardens, in the city's Mission District.

The Gardens is a low-income housing project that was once a hotbed for gang violence until about eight years ago. Since major renovations and evictions in 2006, the neighborhood has become quiet, clean, and clearly safer than other areas in the Mission like the 16th St. BART station. These days, police cars often idle at the corner of Rosa Parks Lane inside the complex. The biggest problem in the Gardens is no longer its residents. The continued police presence and intimidation has become, at best, a nuisance, especially in light of this most recent assault. Photographer Travis Jensen, a friend of D’Paris, posted his account of the altercation on Instagram:

“Yesterday afternoon, while riding his bicycle home from the Make A Wish Foundation's "Bat Kid" happenings, DJ was confronted by two undercover police officers in an unmarked vehicle at the Valencia Gardens Apartments in the City's Mission District. Apparently, the officers said something to DJ about riding his bicycle on the sidewalk as he was pulling up to his home in the complex. It is unclear whether the officers identified themselves or not, but did proceed to get out of their car, grab DJ from behind as he was entering the home and beat him for no apparent reason. A police search uncovered a cupcake and juice that DJ had just purchased from the corner store. Nobody has spoken to DJ since the incident occurred as he was immediately taken to SF General Hospital for treatment, and then to the 850 Bryant police station. So far, it appears no charges have been made against DJ either. There is building video surveillance footage of DJ's confrontation w/ police, but it that has yet to be released by housing authority. Furthermore, three residents came to DJ's aid when they saw officers beating him up, only to find themselves also under attack by officers. By this time, uniformed backup had arrived on the scene. Including DJ, a total of four individuals were beaten and arrested by officers.”

After preventing DJ from enjoying his cupcake and juice in the comfort of his living room after a day of comity, police took the 20-year-old to the hospital, while news of the altercation spread through the projects. In the video below, you can see a beaten D’Paris struggling to walk, yelling “What the fuuuck?” and being taken into custody. As residents stepped outside in curiosity and protest, police cars began swarming the Gardens, ostensibly to prevent a riot.

Another video shows cops moving quickly to quell the crowd. One of the plainclothes cops boldly swings at a bearded man, Orlando Williams, before uniformed police take him down. The same bearded man is shown bloodied later on.

Once the dust had cleared, four individuals were placed under arrest, including a man with HIV whose cane was classified as a “deadly weapon," a semi-conscious D’Paris, and bloody, bearded Orlando, who told reporters from Uptown Almanac that D’Paris spent the weekend in the infirmary, looking like "he was in a bad car accident." By Monday, three of the men had been released, and D’Paris was charged with one felony for assault, three felonies for resisting, and one misdemeanor for the bicycle infraction that started off the whole thing. His bail was set at $143,000, and the SFPD released the following statement:

“At approximately 3:41 PM Friday, officers from the Violence Reduction Team, working a plainclothes assignment attempted to stop a bicyclist in the area of Maxell and Rosa Parks for a California vehicle code infraction. The suspect fled from the officers after they identified themselves as police. The suspect attempted to flee into a residence. The officers confronted the suspect near the doorway and requested additional units for assistance. The suspect failed to comply with lawful orders from the officers and continued to resist the officers. Reasonable force was used by the officers to effect the arrest. During this incident, multiple subjects came from the rear of the residence and formed a hostile crowd around the officers. One subject attempted to strike an officer with a cane, while another suspect bit an officer. Two officers suffered non-life threatening injuries. In total, four suspects were arrested. Two felony and one misdemeanor arrests resulted in bookings. One misdemeanor arrest resulted in a cite.”

It’s great to know that we have so little violent crime in this city that the Violence Reduction Team, which is officially defined as a “citywide team of officers that respond to violent crime and high priority calls in an attempt to reduce violent crimes," has nothing better to do than hang around Valencia Gardens in plainclothes, citing bicyclists outside their own homes on what is effectively a residential street. Despite the charges being dropped by Monday night, a protest was announced for Tuesday evening at the Mission Police Department.

The protest began in the middle of Valencia Gardens. I live closeby and I could hear it through my bedroom window. “What do we want?” a woman shouted into a megaphone, “JUSTICE!” answered the crowd. “When do we want it?” “NOW!” The sun had almost set and it had started to rain as at least a hundred protesters holding signs and banners began to make their way down Valencia St. Up ahead, officers surrounded the police station and blocked off the street. I asked one cop standing near the door what they were expecting, but got no reply. Protesters began lining the street and surrounding the front of the police station, the woman on the megaphone insisting that it was a peaceful protest, “And if one of you hurts my kids, you’re getting the smackdown!” she warned, before starting to chant, “Stop police brutality!” A group of protesters identified themselves as D’Paris’s teachers, and I spoke to one who gave his name as Math Maddox—as in “mathematics"—who’d come out all the way from Bayview.

VICE: We’re out here protesting, but what actually has to happen to stop police brutality in San Francisco?
: At this point I feel like it’s us against them, police against the brown and black community, so whether it’s sensitivity training, or if it’s going to be some type of mediation, or some type of way to resolve police fears.

What do you mean by "police fear" Is that exclusive to the SFPD?
Police fears is what keeps this going, fear that things are going to be escalating, and that they gotta bust heads before it happens. They feel the need to go for the jugular immediately so that they don’t have to worry about anybody else following up behind them.

How long have you known D'Paris?
He was in my class in the 6th grade, and years after that he still came to visit. So, he’s a good guy.

Do you think that he did anything wrong, or that the original bike citation was legitimate?
No. Not considering all of the other stuff that could be going on [for police to deal with], and DJ is a smart, smart guy. As a matter of a fact, I see myself in him. As one of the good guys or smart guys who’s not dealing drugs or bothering people, et cetera. I had people looking out for me, making sure I don’t get in trouble, and now that’s where D’Paris is, except now it’s too late. Brother’s going to school, he’s working, and there it is, it wasn’t enough for them.


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