A hunger strike began late last week outside Mission Police Station calling for the resignation of Chief Greg Suhr and demanding that the SFPD "stop the execution of our people." The strike was initially organized by vocal Ed Lee critic Equipto, a.k.a. Ilych Sato, a local rapper who's previously organized heckling sessions of the Mayor related both to gentrification and to the shooting of Mario Woods in December. It began with just a handful of people on Friday, who say they are only consuming water, coconut water, and ginger tea, and grew larger over the weekend before shrinking back a bit Bay City News quotes Equipto as saying there were 24 people striking on Saturday, with one who fainted, and Mission Local put the number Monday at 10. (48 Hills has the number of strikers as six, as of Monday.)
The strike comes in the wake of the fatal shooting by police of homeless man Luis Gongora earlier this month, and the controversial police shootings of three other men of color in the last two years.
There were reportedly a couple of confrontations Monday night, as the strike went into its fifth night, as protesters sought access to bathrooms and other public space at the station. Cops told them the bathrooms were out of order Monday, and demanded the removal of several tents that had appeared on the sidewalk. Also, protesters tell Mission Local that power in the public areas of the station that they had been using to charge phones and others devices was shut off temporarily on Monday.
The protesters include District 9 supervisor candidate Edwin Lindo, who tells CBS 5 that the ambulances will likely come before anyone actually dies of starvation, but he says they're out there because "We’ve exhausted every option to seek justice for the black and brown community here in San Francisco."
Public Defender Jeff Adachi on hunger strikers threatened with arrest: "It looks like people just hanging out" pic.twitter.com/ImDgQdUmus— Michael Barba (@mdbarba) April 26, 2016
Strikers also include Equipto's mom, Maria-Cristina Gutierrez, 66, executive director of the Compañeros del Barrio preschool; local hip-hop artist Sellassie Blackwell, who you can hear speaking through the brutal wind on Sunday afternoon; and preschool teacher Ike Pinkston, who works with Gutierrez. The hunger strike was reportedly Gutierrez's idea, and something she had been suggesting since the 2014 shooting of Alex Nieto. According to a spokesperson for the group talking to SF Mag, Gutierrez said, "Enough is enough. I cannot live in this city anymore. I will not eat until the chief of police is gone."
Gutierrez said there would be a rally outside Mission Station today, Tuesday, and about 100 people were gathered around the protesters Monday night, as the Examiner reports, playing music and keeping the mood light.
The activists are still waiting for some acknowledgement by Mayor Ed Lee, who said last week, "Whether they call it a demonstration, a hunger strike or a march, we’re going to respect that. And we’ve heard. I take police reform seriously, and so does the chief."
Mayoral spokesperson Christine Falvey simply told SF Mag, "If the purpose is to draw attention to police reforms, the issue is clearly front and center in the Mayor’s Administration, the Police Commission, and the entire community and it will continue to be."