A few days before Mayor London Breed held a press conference in response to shoplifting and burglaries at various commodified luxury brand stores in Downtown, 41-year-old Ajmal Amani, who was an ex-Afghan interpreter that also struggled with post-traumatic stress disorder, was killed in the corridor of the Covered Wagon Hotel at South of Market after suffering a mental health crisis while holding a knife.
According to the San Francisco Chronicle, the 911 dispatcher was interrupted by police officers before they could notify them about his PTSD or that his case manager was on the way.
The article also states that the officer who took the dispatcher’s call immediately asked for backup right after the interruption, which provided little to no opportunity to consider de-escalation.
“If we would have been able to respond to Ajmal Amani with mental health care instead of cops with guns, he would still be alive,” said Aditi Joshi of Defund SFPD Now.
Joshi also noted that Amani “was suffering from extreme PTSD from his time as an interpreter for the Navy Seals in Afghanistan” and that he was “shot several times while on duty”. Even after helping US soldiers occupy his country of birth, he never received adequate mental health care from his experience in war.
Because of his history with PTSD, he was in treatment in lieu of his prosecution for injuring a park ranger back in 2019 and completed his treatment in August. However, despite his complex and personal history, the outcome was the same as other people gunned down by police.
Joshi feels especially strongly about this. “We always have a choice. If we call 911, we are responding to these situations with cops, who rely on violence and escalate moments of crisis. Cops brought guns into a situation that otherwise could have been de-escalated.”
In response to the killing, Defund SFPD Now, along with various coalitions, held a vigil right outside of the Covered Wagon Hotel last Friday with candles lining up by the building wall, spray-painted with the words “Justice for Ajmal Amani” in black, red, and green, and protestors stood around the corner with signs demanding to “abolish the police” and to “reinvest in our communities”. Many of the organizers that held this event expressed their anger towards the SFPD alongside Mayor Breed for deprioritizing public safety for Black and Brown communities.
The vigil was followed by a march leading up to Union Square, where they also criticized Mayor Breed for prioritizing property protection over protecting the lives taken by SFPD. Just yesterday, the Board of Supervisors also passed legislation that will allow deputy sheriffs to work overtime at retail stores and commercial businesses for special occasions.
“A budget is a reflection of our values and our city officials have chosen to fund violence,” said Joshi. “They’ve put millions of dollars into increasing SFPD presence in Union Square while thousands in our city are unhoused and without healthcare.”
As of now, there aren’t any proposals to reduce the police budget nor any investments to fund more social programs, but abolitionist organizers are continuing to call for justice.
“We will continue speaking his name. We will continue telling his story.”
Photos by Savannah Kuang