This post is part of our special coverage of #hungerforjusticesf. Six San Francisco residents are on hunger strike outside Mission Police Station, demanding that Mayor Ed Lee fire San Francisco Police Chief Gregory P. Suhr. Over the past three years the SFPD has shot and killed four men of color; the protestors feel that the hunger strike is the only remaining option to demand an end to police impunity. Read our full coverage here.
It’s a windy day in San Francisco but that hasn’t dampened their spirits, day four of the hunger strike against police killings continues outside Mission Police Station, at 17th and Valencia. Hunger strikers are demanding that Police Chief Gregory Suhr steps down.
Maria Cristina Gutierrez, 66, is sitting in a corner right outside the door of the police station, people passing by the street stop by to ask if she’s doing okay, she smiles and nods while sipping on some coconut water. She hasn’t eaten anything for more than 76 hours.
“The mayor, I believe is not going to take any action. We are going to be here for a while, I feel like we will have to do this for a while” she says “I have done a hunger strike before but that was a long time ago and I hope that he will finally listen to what we have to say. This is very hard on us, we’ve been sick and cold. But people stop by and there’s just so much love. They bring juices and blankets you know, so much love,” Gutierrez says as she breaks down. Gutierrez took up the role of reminding her fellow hunger strikers to rest up and keep hydrated, being jokingly referred to as the ‘mother’ among her fellow protestors. “We wake up everyday feeling tired and then we see people around us and it’s a new day. We will do this, we are going to win, we will win, we will win this but it’s going to take people like you and others to come forward,” she said.
Community leader and comedian Yayne Abeba has been outside the police station all day, just to remind everyone to keep hydrated and rest well. “It’s important to remind them, so I have been playing the mommy here making sure they remember to keep hydrated” she said. Abeba isn’t alone, a number of people come in everyday bringing in electrolytes or coconut water and stay back for several hours to keep the hunger strikers company.
Every now and then they go inside the police station to use the toilet or to charge their devices. Ilych Sato, better known as Equipto, lost his phone yesterday while it was on charge inside the premises of the police station. “They told me they don’t see it on the cameras, that was the first thing I asked them to check”. Soon after the news was reported by Laura Waxman, Mission Local, a passerby stopped and gave money to Equipto to buy a new phone. “He just stopped by and helped” Equipto said. “There’s action at City Hall tomorrow, a lot of people will go to the Mayor’s office to ask ‘what’s going on here?’, even if you gotta bring your security guards, come out and talk to the people about what’s going on here. This is serious, what kind of a Mayor is he if he’s not taking people putting their lives at risk seriously to highlight this corrupt system of the San Francisco police department, that’s not no mayor” he said.
It’s day five of no food for Edwin Lindo, and he said he feels more in control of his spirituality. “There’s so much clarity in my mind right now, I understand why people fast for spiritual reasons now,” he said “I won’t do this for everything but when you are taking lives of people I know, it’s personal. We are willing to do this, we are willing to sacrifice our bodies, Mayor Lee should know that,” says Lindo, he also has a message for Chief Suhr: “Chief you are most likely listening, I know you and I think you are great guy and I respect you as a a human being but your job is much more difficult than you can handle and we need new leadership at SFPD”.
Lindo’s partner, Estell Williams, who is a physician has been visiting to keep him company and show support. “For me I am just really proud, there’s a lot of naysayers in the world and then there’s a lot of passive people. You usually get one or the other, it’s very rare that you will find true activist people who are willing to take it one step further. We’ve had one for every generation and when you look back now, and we say wow look at the forethought these people had, look how brave they were in their time to stand up for something they believed in. At that time they had their nay-sayers, they had passive people within their communities who weren’t willing to take a stand with them and then you had the few who were willing to take that stand and we are all, each one of us regardless of our race have a lot of opportunities because of the stand of these individuals took for the betterment of the society,” she said. “I think that sacrifice, that forethought is something that should be commended, should be acknowledged and it should be praised. So I praise him for being that individual for our generation”.
Ike Pinkston, a preschool teacher at Compañeros del Barrio, is catching up on a basketball game on his phone to keep him distracted. A car drives by honking their horn and support and Pinkston waves back “When you get support like that, it feels good,” he said, “You can’t keep coming up with the same ‘he had a knife’ story and the cops felt threatened. You can see in the Mario Woods video, you got multiple police officers with guns. In the video you don’t see a knife,you see a kid pleading for his life.”
Sellassie Blackwell, a San Francisco native and political hip-hop artist, has been battling bouts of dizziness and cold. “I just feel really weak, it’s hard to even talk because a lot of the times we are on adrenaline and high spirits but sometimes when you sit down you just really start to collapse because you don’t have any food or nourishment,” Blackwell says. He’s covered himself in warm blankets to keep from getting cold. “I just try to think about, not myself, but other people there are other people that are hungry. I have money in my pocket, I can go get some food that’s why it’s not that bad when I am done with this I can eat. But there are people who can’t eat right here in San Francisco, on Division street, Mission, in the Fillmore or mentally ill people who can’t eat. It be heartbreaking to see how they don’t have any money” Blackwell added, he’s grateful that so many people are stopping by to look after him and others.
Blackwell has a message for Mayor Ed Lee “He just figures he’ll ignore us till someone dies and I hope that doesn’t happen but if it does, he’ll live with that for the rest of his life.”
As the pangs of hunger increase with every passing hour, all eyes will be on City Hall tomorrow to see whether the mayor will respond to their demands.