The thundering grumble of lowriders ignited the street corridors of Valencia Street on May 1, as a procession of the restored marvels came to rest in front of the Mission Police Station in a show of support for the ongoing hunger strike.
Benjamin Bac Sierra, a City College of San Francisco English teacher and active member of the Mission District’s lowrider community, led the caravan of “lowrider bombs” from the Cinco de Mayo “Give Something Back Car Show” at John O’Connell High School to the Mission Police Station, in an act of solidarity with the five hunger strikers demanding the resignation of San Francisco Police Chief Greg Suhr.
“Black and brown never let us down,” Bac Sierra called out to the crowd in reference to the communities united against police violence. “Lowriders take over the Mission Police Station. Viva La Mision.”
The five activists, now known as the “Frisco 5,” clambered into a cream-colored 1964 Chevrolet Impala and raised their fists as hydraulics bounced them to and fro.
“We came here to show them love. They are my heroes. The last time I saw someone do a hunger strike was Cesar Chavez,” said Roberto Hernandez, the Impala’s owner and the president of the San Francisco Lowrider Council.
Shortly after the lowriders arrived at the station, they parked in the red zone. At about 4 p.m., 15 police officers approached the cars, threatening to issue parking tickets.
“They’re ticketing cars because we are protesting them killing us,” Bac Sierra said.
No tickets were issued however, and the lowriders eventually complied with police orders to vacate the curb.
“It wasn’t a surprise [the lowriders] came,” hunger striker Sellassie Blackwell said. “But it was a surprise we held this space as long as we did.”
As of May 1, the “Frisco 5” had gone 11 days without eating. The lowriders are one of many community groups lending support and boosting morale of the strikers. Members from the Nation of Islam were also there in solidarity.
“It was unbelievable to see the wives and the babies and the cars coming by and say how they’re so proud of what we’re doing,” Gutierrez said. “Then I turn around to see the families from the Nation of Islam who are mostly black. This is the black and brown unity right here. That in itself accomplishes a lot.”
Story by: Marco Siler-Gonzales