Public Defenders Join Families Who Have Lost Loved Ones to Police Violence at San Jose #FreedomNow Action

On July 21st, San Jose joined a #FreedomNow national day of action with the Black Lives Matter movement. The rally held at City Hall was lead by families who had lost loved ones to police violence. Joining the action were Santa Clara County Public Defenders Jennifer Redding and Sajid Khan, who both spoke about racial injustices they say daily in the court system. Below are Khan’s remarks to the crowd.


Santa Clara County Public Defender gives a speech at the San Jose #FreedomNow Black Lives Matter rally.

My name is Sajid Khan and I’m a public defender here in San Jose.  I grew up and live here in San Jose and went to San Jose High School 20 blocks from here, the same high school that the late Phillip Watkins went to and played football at. His murder by police shook me because I am him and he is me.

As a public defender, the stories we’re here remembering are all too familiar: police intruding in the lives of minorities for no legitimate or necessary reason or not peacefully and appropriately responding to calls for intervention.

I, and we as public defenders, will keep fighting in our county courthouses to ensure that these deaths we’re mourning do not go in vain.

We will honor these fallen souls by fighting for the countless black and brown people that fill our jails and courthouses, that experience the same dehumanization, embarrassment and degradation due to overzealous and unreasonable police contact.

We will fight when police stop, beat and shoot our brothers and sisters only to have the DA turn around and charge them with resisting or assaulting the very officers who degrade them.

We will continue to fight when police stop my client on a San Jose street for merely walking away, when my Latino client is stopped and questioned by a Milpitas police officer for standing on a sidewalk late at night, when my Black client is tackled and tased for walking around in a “high crime” area of San Jose, when my black client is frisked for weapons by a cop because he wore a long white tee, when my young Hispanic client has his car spotlighted by police as he sits talking on his cell phone, when my client is detained and questioned by police for taking a nap in his car in the middle of the day.  We will fight not only to ensure these clients’ rights, but also to conserve the rights of the rest of us.

We will demand the following: No more hunting by police for black and brown men that haven’t committed an obvious crime.  No more stop and frisk.  No more pulling black and brown people over for riding without a bright enough bike light or for driving a car with something hanging from the rear-view mirror.

No more “consensual encounters” with random Black or Latino males on the street to gather gang intelligence. Black and brown young men are not all gang members. We will stand against police creating field identification (FI) cards and placing black and Latino youth in gang databases merely because of where they live, who their family members are, what colors they might been seen wearing, because they have a childhood nickname or because they are seen congregating on a street corner with friends. No more.

In that spirit, we will remind judges, DAs, juries and police of the humanity of the black and brown people we represent.   We will stress that not they are not all dangerous, violent and thugs.  We will tell their stories.

We will advise the community that the criminally accused are more than their worst moments and lapses in judgment.They are more than their case numbers, a line number on a court calendar, charges, or rap sheets. They are more than their identifying “PFN” numbers on their jail wristbands and more than their housing unit at the jail. They’re human beings.  They have families. They have names.

Their lives matter. Black and brown lives matter.


Read more of Sajid Khan’s writings: at:


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