Poisonous fruit: Jeff Adachi on the right to housing without police harassment


Community forum for survivors of SRO home invasions by police Tuesday, April 19, 6 p.m., at POOR Magazine, 2940 16th St. #301, San Francisco

by Tiny aka Lisa Gray-Garcia

Southern trees bear strange fruit,/ Blood on the leaves and blood at the root,/ Black bodies swinging in the Southern breeze,/ Strange fruit hanging from the poplar trees.

“Police should not be allowed to pick from the ‘poisonous tree,’” said Jeff Adachi, public defender for San Francisco. Adachi explained that the poisonous tree was a legal metaphor used to describe evidence that is obtained illegally.

He was referring to a recent series of cases he and his staff uncovered that included evidence obtained illegally from residents of poor people housing, aka single room occupancy (SRO) hotels in San Francisco. Hotels where me and my mama, Marlon Crump and almost every poor person I know has been police harassed, profiled and abused while in and/or outside of their homes, unnoticed and unchecked for years – until now.

“There is nothing more frightening, more scary, more terrifying than someone opening and coming through your door … unannounced.” – Marlon Crump in “Wrongful Use of Force,” POOR Magazine, 2007

As a child and young adult, I lived with my disabled mama through years of houselessness and severe poverty in Los Angeles, Oakland and San Francisco. Periodically, we scraped together the cash to afford the daily rent of single room occupancy hotels. Every night we spent inside of the SRO hotels were spent in terror of what might happen if a police officer arbitrarily decided that we were “suspects.” Sadly, this ongoing trauma happened so often, it became oddly normalized.

When the images of undercover police officers illegally entering SRO hotel rooms without warrants, lying about their illegal entrances and then subsequently framing residents based on all kinds of “poisonous fruit” began to flood the corporate press, all us survivors of this ongoing abuse let out a deep collective sigh. I was personally reminded how much I appreciate Jeff Adachi and his staff of dedicated advocates, who have consistently spoken up for poor people and peoples of color, caught in a web of lies that leads to the apartheid-like U.S. prison industrial complex, filled with overwhelming numbers of brothers and sisters of color in poverty from colonized communities all across Pachamama.

“It was almost midnight. I was in my room, preparing to leave to pick up some food from the store with my food stamp card, when suddenly my door lock clicked open. The next thing I knew, I was staring down the barrels of numerous guns carried by a squad of officers yelling obscenities at me. This is an image that will be forever seared into my memory and one that still haunts me to this day.” – Marlon Crump in “Wrongful Use of Force,” chronicling the police terror he experienced by the SFPD

“This sort of pattern and practice leads to the breach of human and civil rights of residents,” Jeff continued, explaining the many ways that the U.S. justice system is a web of injustice for poor people who live in SROs, who, like all folks in poverty, living in or outside, are somehow perceived as undeserving of our basic constitutional right to privacy.

“What should be outlawed is the practice of hotel managers giving keys to police officers just because they ask for them.” This was Adachi’s unflinching response when Marlon related his own experiences of police abuse while sitting innocently in his hotel. Marlon was seriously traumatized, but the ordeal launched his own healing process of revolutionary legal action, art and media that he eventually memorialized in a chilling scene from the POOR Magazine theatre production, “Hotel Voices.”

“They (police) are saying its only eight bad cops, but that makes me wonder how many more times this has happened to folks. And the only reason these cops were seen is because they were caught on video,” Jeff said. He related experiences in courtrooms where judges have apologized to police officers when presented with evidence like this, telling them, “I’m sorry I have to dismiss this case.”

The depth of these kinds of judicial injustices and their subsequent impact on us po’ folk is the reason Marlon and I launched the Revolutionary Legal Advocacy Project (RLAP) at POOR Magazine. “Jailhouse lawyers outside of jail without a degree” is our motto. RLAP is a media and education project of PeopleSkool at POOR and is here to give folks in poverty who can’t afford lawyers some legal advocacy and tools to infiltrate an elaborate system that is set up to incarcerate us.

We have helped folks accused of a multitude of crimes of poverty how to be their own advocates and through Peopleskool to make media and art to be heard and eventually become educators themselves, who can teach lawyers, academics and college students how to redefine the knowledge held by us poor people schooled from lived, not just learned, experience, a canon we call poverty scholarship.

“One of the most important things for poor folks to do is write and speak about their experiences, just like you do at POOR Magazine/Prensa POBRE,” Jeff concluded with deep praise for our poor people-led media, art and education projects. This was much appreciated by Marlon and me as Jeff is a powerful artist and filmmaker in his own right with working-class roots.

He went on to ask us if POOR Magazine could host a forum for folks who have experienced these kinds of illegal SRO home invasions. As Jeff spoke, my mind wandered to a dream of the end of poisoned fruit ingestion for us poor folks and that, instead, with the help of conscious advocates like Jeff, we could actually experience the taste of justice.

On Tuesday, April 19, at 6 p.m., POOR Magazine will be hosting a talk circle/community forum for families, adults and elder tenants in poverty who live in SROs and have experienced home invasions by police. Dinner and child care will be provided. Jeff Adachi’s office will be present if people want to give testimony. The location is POOR Magazine, 2940 16th St. #301, San Francisco, near 16th Street BART.

Tiny – or Lisa Gray-Garcia – is the consummate organizer, co-founder with her Mama Dee and co-editor with Tony Robles of POOR Magazine and its many offspring and author of “Criminal of Poverty: Growing Up Homeless in America,” published by City Lights. She can be reached at deeandtiny@poormagazine.org. Visit www.tinygraygarcia.com and www.racepovertymediajustice.org.



  1. Keep in mind that EVERY single suspect in this case WAS a drug dealer who sold this POISON to any and everyone just to make a buck, even to their OWN people! You, and I, may disagree with their tactics, but these cops were just trying to make life BETTER for the "po'", not worse! In every fight against those who would abuse society there are some innocent casualties!!

  2. Always missing the point, as always, but not un expected. So what about the "privileged" ones who do the same, OFTEN ……….without impunity in their own community, "S.F. Copper?" Quiet as kept, who was responsible for flooding poor communities (particularly the black community) with drugs in the first place, hmmmmm? They knew that all it would take is for one person to participate in processing poison that would later become a phenomenal pandemic, while the perpetrators responsible would profit off of their misery.

    Drugs can exist in ANY community and culture. However, we both know where the finger gets pointed first.

    Besides, warrant less entries are strictly prohibited, at least they are supposed to. In addition, "SF Copper" you ought to see the 1995 movie "Panther" where there was a scene where the Oakland Police Inspector assigned to neutralize the Black Panthers admitted to one of them of what the feds were planning, and did not want no participation in it, whatsoever.

    At least that cop had a clear conscious of a line that he couldn't cross. Speaking the truth is all. Take it anyway you want, but you can't evade the truth, no matter the cover.

  3. And B.T.W. "SF Copper" you wouldn't be saying all of this if the shoe was on the other foot, would you?

  4. "Innocent casualties?" Ironically, almost hilarious considering that I too was an "innocent casualty" when there was a robbery that took place, and I was caught up right up in the middle. Rather than follow proper procedures, the S.F.P.D. covered up their crimes: Lying on the police report, fabricating a public document, defaming, discrediting my character, betraying and even pacifying me in the process. Etc, etc.

    Even going to the Citizen's Police Academy in 2008 with Supervisor David Campos and Officer Nate Steger should've ultimately put an end to illegal room raiding regimes. All the crimes they committed against me are now revealing their own culture of callousness and corruption. I personally don't feel good saying this, but PAYBACK IS A BITCH!, is it not?

  5. well done Marlon !!
    How much does SFPD narcs focus on powder cocaine white dealers in "upscale" neighborhoods and on tourists snorting coke , Hm ? Nuf said…….. Serve and Protect the ruling class and corporate interests is the name of dat game../././

  6. San Francisco District Attorney George Gascon called an emergency meeting today to discuss racism in the DA's office. Professor/Assistant District Attorney Jerry Coleman apologized for conducting a training session for attorneys and using Middle-Eastern Arabs as props and making fun of them. Many attorneys were not amused and reported Coleman to Gascon. Coleman, who is Jewish, apologized to everyone.

    Now, what was Coleman thinking? He knows better than to make fun of minorities. He is a long-time San Franciscan and a very clever man. One can only think that he could "get away" with it because the Muslim-American attorneys would just laugh along with him and not report him.

    This is exactly how racism starts. I'm glad George Gascon confronted it and faced this ugly head of racism head on.

    Click here to find out more!

    Read more at the San Francisco Examiner: http://www.sfexaminer.com/local/crime/2011/04/san

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