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Hunger strike over but Frisco 5 determined to fight on
The Frisco 5 hunger strikers are pushed by wheelchair by doctors from UCSF during a march to City Hall demanding that Mayor Ed Lee fires SFPD Chief Greg Suhr on day 13 of their hunger strike on May 3, 2016 in San Francisco, California.
The Frisco 5 hunger strikers are pushed by wheelchair by doctors from UCSF during a march to City Hall demanding that Mayor Ed Lee fires SFPD Chief Greg Suhr on day 13 of their hunger strike on May 3, 2016 in San Francisco. The strikers (from left) Ike Pinkston, Ilych Sato (Equipto), Selassie Blackwell, Cristina Gutierrez and Edwin Lindo ended their strike on May 7 after being hospitalized. Photo Joel Angel Juárez

The “Frisco 5”—the five San Francisco hunger strikers who have been protesting police brutality and demanding that Police Chief Greg Suhr be fired—ended their strike on May 7 after being hospitalized, according to a spokesperson for the group.

All five strikers, who had gone 17 days without solid food (many of those days spent sleeping outside of Mission Police Station) were released from the hospital and are now at their homes resting recovering, said Frisco 5 spokesperson Yayne Abeba.

But despite the hunger strike ending, Selassie Blackwell, Ilych Sato (Equipto), Edwin Lindo, Ike Pinkerton and Cristina Gutierrez are not backing down from their initial demand that Mayor Ed Lee to fire chief Suhr.

The hunger strike ended two days after Lee contacted the five strikers in response to their May 3 march on City Hall. The strikers marched from their encampment at Mission Station to City Hall flanked by close to 1,000 supporters, including activists from Black Lives Matter, leaders from the Nation of Islam and parish members from St. John Coltrane African Orthodox Church.

The mayor, however, wasn’t present at City Hall on May 3.

According to a press release by the Frisco 5, Lee “tried to defend himself by saying that he was working on reforms that are being implemented and he is trying to make progress with SFPD.”

After being informed by a representative from Lee’s office that the mayor was away from city hall, the hunger strikers and activists voiced their concerns at the Board of Supervisors meeting.

The meeting was shutdown after a series of exchanges between the hunger strikers and supervisors London Breed and David Campos.

After two weeks without solid food, the bodies of the hunger strikers began to show the effects of malnutrition.

“We’ve been out here 14 days,” Blackwell told El Tecolote on May 4. “We’re sleeping on the ground. I’m on the f—ing concrete. And we aren’t eating. So obviously things aren’t going to be right.”

Blackwell was taken to the emergency room on May 4 at the recommendation of doctors from the UCSF Medical Center, affiliated with Clínica Martín Baró.

Gutierrez, who is 66, also had a chest x-ray on April 30 because of irregular breathing patterns, which doctors thought could be signs of pneumonia.

When asked about how long he intended to go without food Blackwell said, “I stand by my crew, the Frisco 5. We are taking our health very seriously and today was a wake-up call because I had to go to the emergency room.”

He explained that the doctor told him if he hadn’t gone to the emergency room that day “anything could have happened.”

“I have to be monitored everyday from now on,” he said.

At a news conference held on May 5 at the Black and Brown Social Club on Valencia Street, Dr. Rupta Marya from UCSF said the hunger strikers’ bodies were nearing the point where irreversible damage could occur and their bodies will shut down and start feeding on themselves.

Abeba said that a press conference was scheduled for May 12 at 10:30 a.m. at Mission Station.

The mayor’s office did not respond when asked to comment.

Story by: John Morrison