Justice for Travis Hall, My Son
This past spring was supposed to be a happy time in my son’s life. Instead, something happened that tainted everything. Travis was assaulted by the very people who we are supposed to count on for security and protection: the police.
Travis had worked hard to get through four years of college at Fordham University. A graphic design student, he was preparing his portfolio for his senior Thesis Exhibition and getting ready for graduation, his biggest accomplishment.
The night of April 10, 2015, Travis was getting dropped off right outside our South of Market apartment officers in plainclothes and an unmarked car approached him and his friends. They didn’t provide justification for the initial approach, even after repeatedly being asked. The aggressively questioned Travis and his friends.
Travis got scared, and tried to use his cell phone to call me for help. He even told the officers he was calling his mother. For that, the officers decided to treat him like a dangerous threat. They pulled him from the car and body slammed him to the concrete ground, beating him before arresting him. As a result of this police assault, Travis suffered a concussion, and cuts and bruises to his neck and head.
When Travis asked why he was being detained, one officer suggested it was because of the Arabic writing on his pants. Later, another officer told me they were stopped for signaling erratically when parking. Unsurprisingly, the district attorney never pursued formal charges against Travis.
When I found out what had happened to Travis, the only thing I could think to do was call 911. I called them and shouted, “They took my son away. They beat him up. He didn’t do anything.” I basically called the cops to tell them the cops had assaulted my son.
But, what are you supposed to do when the people who are supposed to protect your kid are the ones responsible for harming him?
After the incident, we tried to file a complaint with the Office of Citizen Complaints, but we got no help. We couldn’t even get the police report to which we are entitled, although we requested in multiple times. Without an ACLU lawyer, simply getting the report seemed a near impossible task.
I’ve worked so hard to give Travis the best circumstances and the best opportunities possible. I’ve never wanted him to have any limits. To think that police officers, people in uniforms who we trust to keep us safe, could threaten that and ruin that is disturbing and upsetting.
It is also shocking and outrageous that, in such an educated and progressive city as San Francisco, young men of color like my son are just as vulnerable to racially biased policing as other places we hear about in the news.
I keep thinking, what if they had hit his head on the pavement one more time? What if the officer had pulled a gun? I’d be one of those mothers protesting and demanding better policing, but only with a photo of my son on a poster, rather than standing next to him. No mother should have that feeling.
That’s why we are working with the ACLU of Northern California to file a federal civil rights lawsuit against the City and County of San Francisco, the San Francisco Police Department (SFPD) and the three individual officers for excessive force, unreasonable search and seizure, and false arrest and imprisonment.
We are seeking justice for Travis, and we are also seeking to change how SFPD and other law enforcement agencies conduct business as usual. I feel like these officers from the Mission Police Station acted like a fraternity of bullies. I want to tell them we’re good members of our community, and we don’t want that kind of behavior, especially not from the very people we’re supposed to trust.
Police assaults should not be a rite of passage for young Black men anywhere and especially not here in a city like ours.