By Sam Moore
Hundreds gathered last night for a candlelight vigil and march to City Hall in honor of Jeff Adachi, San Francisco’s beloved public defender who died suddenly last week.
Organized by Adachi’s colleagues and friends, the vigil and march began in front of the San Francisco Public Defender’s Office on Seventh Street. It opened with an Aztec dance and blessing, a testament to what many called Adachi’s “warrior spirit.”
The crowd was so large that it poured into the street. Those present included his wife, Mutsuko Adachi, and Gwendolyn Woods, whose son Mario was shot and killed by police in 2015.
“There are Black and Brown communities,” Woods said to Mrs. Adachi as she spoke at the podium, “that would believe your husband more than they’d believe a pastor.” Woods spoke of Adachi’s unrelenting support following her son’s murder and urged others to respect and continue his legacy.
Adachi is remembered as one of the best public defenders in the country, whose devotion to San Francisco’s most marginalized communities proved steadfast even in the face of adversity.
“He didn’t wait to take positions only when they were easy to take,” said Angela Chan, the policy director and senior staff attorney for the Criminal Justice Reform Program at the Asian Law Caucus. “Rather, he was one of the first to lead the charge and take a stance even when it was unpopular, even when he knew he would be subject to a barrage of insults and attacks, especially from the police.”
“There are Black and Brown communities … that would believe your husband more than they’d believe a pastor.”
Prior to his death, Adachi was working on exposing beatings and illegal strip searches by sheriff’s deputies in San Francisco jails. He was also instrumental in exposing racist text messages exchanged between SFPD officers in 2015, which caused the district attorney’s office to re-evaluate thousands of criminal cases.
“Jeff was on a crusade to end the school to prison pipeline,” said deputy public defender Jacque Wilson of Adachi’s work with youth leadership and juvenile justice reform. “He was a champion for justice, he was a champion for this community, and he was a champion for all of us.”
The march passed through South of Market and the Tenderloin to the steps of City Hall, where a spoken word poem was performed by a local youth. Mourners’ chants included “Long live Jeff Adachi” and “Power to the people.”
“Marcus Garvey said ‘look for me in the whirlwind or the storm, look for me all around you,’” said Jacque Wilson prior to the march. “We see a whirlwind today. We see a storm. And when I look around all of us, I see Jeff Adachi. I see that fighting spirit. I know that we will move forward.”
Sam Moore is a journalism student at San Francisco State University interning with the Bay View this semester. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article originally appeared in the San Francisco Bay View.