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The five activists on hunger strike—who have become known as the “Frisco 5”—are responding to what they believe to be systemic injustices present in the SFPD, and are demanding the firing of Police Chief Greg Suhr and the resignation of Mayor Ed Lee.
The strike, which began April 20, is in response to the killing of four black and Latino males in the past two years: Luis Gongora, Mario Woods, Amilcar Perez-Lopez and Alex Nieto.
“I’m an SF native, and I’ve never seen such murderous cops in my life,” said hunger striker Ike Pinkston. “This has to stop and it is going to stop.”
Pinkston and the other strikers—Edwin Lindo, Sellassie Blackwell, the local rapper Equipto (Ilyich Sato) and Equipto’s mother Cristina Gutierrez—have been outside Mission Police Station, day and night for the past two weeks.
The five have drawn support from the local community with bystanders coming to serve tea and drop off water, coconut water and other supplies. They have also received free health check-ups from Clínica Martín-Baró.
“If I get unconscious I don’t want people to revive me,” said 66-year-old Gutierrez, who had an x-ray exam, and who may be suffering from pneumonia. “I don’t want food or anything. I believe in the power of people and power of God. I will be alive and happy to celebrate what I believe.”
Standing outside of Mission Police Station on April 26, Lindo, who is running for David Campos’ District 9 Supervisor seat, addressed the crowd blocking traffic on Valencia Street.
“I’ve gone from hunger to pain to headaches, but now I can’t feel anything. I’ve never felt this great in my spirit,” Lindo said. “We make a promise to you that we will not leave until justice is here.”
In response to the unplanned blocking of street traffic on April 26, police put up a series of barriers around Mission Station, with more than 30 officers on foot, and additional police on motorcycles blocking the sidewalk.
At 6 p.m. that evening following the cancellation of a community meeting with the SFPD, community members joined an impromptu demonstration in support of the hunger strikers.
The rally, which took over the intersection between Valencia and 17th streets, consisted at its peak, of more than 150 supporters who chanted such slogans as “no justice, no peace, no racist police.”
As reported by the SF Examiner, both Mayor Lee and Chief Suhr acknowledged the strikers in separate public statements.
On May 2 (day 12 of the strike) Lee attempted to meet with the strikers at Mission Station, but they refused because they weren’t given prior notice of his arrival. The strikers instead decided to march to City Hall on May 3, hoping to meet with the mayor.
Nearly a thousand demonstrators marched on City Hall on May 3, seeking to meet with the Mayor, who was already meeting with merchants in the Bayview. According to those involved, over the past week there have been a few cases in the evening of unsupportive bystanders insulting the hunger strikers. During one altercation, someone driving by threw breadcrumbs at the strikers. Other insults included a passerby flipping off the strikers, and someone yelling, “I hope you die, then there will be less of you.”
Lindo said the goal of the demonstration is to spur change within city government.
“We should not have a police killing within the next five years,” he said. “We need a diverse police department, and the next chief must be chosen by the community with the consent of community leaders.”
Lindo added that a requirement for multi-lingual police officers and support should be readily available.
A series of public officials, including San Francisco Public Defender Jeff Adachi and current District 9 Supervisor David Campos, have stopped by to check on the health of the strikers, and at times offered support.