San Francisco mayor speaks with hunger strikers by phone, stands by police chief and reform efforts https://t.co/4rP71mkCcM— KRON 4 News (@kron4news) May 5, 2016
Following on the political theater of this week in which Mayor Ed Lee and the hunger strikers now being called the Frisco Five failed twice to have an in-person meeting, the mayor has finally spoken with one of the strike leaders, Ilyich Sato, a.k.a. Equipto, by phone. As KRON 4 and others are reporting, the mayor reiterated that reforms were underway in the SFPD with regard to de-escalation and their use of weapons, and that firing Chief Suhr which is the strikers' primary demand would only slow the process of implementing these reforms. He also said that he has asked U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch to investigate the Mario Woods shooting, but has not heard back from her. Hearing only that Lee "stands with Suhr," the strikers vowed to continue their demonstration, in which they're now in their 16th day without solid food.
As CBS 5 notes, the mayor's call came a day after one of the strikers, Selassie Blackwell, fainted and was briefly taken to the hospital for examination. He was released and returned to the campsite on Wednesday evening.
In follow-up statements after the phone call, the mayor's spokesperson Christine Falvey said, "Mayor Lee contacted the group today to let them know that he respects their right to protest, but hopes they will do so in a way that doesn’t harm themselves." As the Chronicle reports, she says that he called to ask about the strikers' health, to express his continued support for Chief Suhr, and to explain about the reforms that are underway. "He was trying to explain that firing the chief does not advance the reforms and probably would slow them down, because you would have to do a national search for a new police chief," Falvey told the paper.
The phone call followed a bit of a farce in which the hunger strikers first demanded the mayor meet with them at Mission Station, then such a meeting was allegedly brokered by Supervisor John Avalos, but by then the strikers had decided they would march to City Hall themselves, and refused to meet with the mayor a day ahead of that, when he showed up. When they arrived at City Hall on Tuesday, the mayor was away in the Bayview.
The Frisco Five responded in a statement on Indybay saying that "blood would be on his hands." And:
The Mayor 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. His reactionary reforms for a department led by his scandal plagued appointee have come too late. They should have been implemented when his officers killed Kenneth Harding five years ago.
One of the strikers, Edwin Lindo, who is also a candidate for District 9 Supervisor, summed up the mayor's call thusly, on Facebook:
Mayor Lee finally called us directly and defended Chief Suhr ... saying he’s a good chief. He made clear that he stands with Suhr and will not fire him. He didn’t even ask about our health!! This man will really leave us in these streets to die. Sad. We will make sure the world puts its weight of justice on Ed Lee and San Francisco. We will win.
It's unclear what happens next, with both sides digging in their heels and one side very, very hungry. Lindo tells KRON 4 "I’ve lost 20 pounds already and I didn’t have 20 pounds to lose in the first place."
But if firing Suhr is something they refuse to compromise on, we can expect more hospitalizations soon.