When Edwin Lindo, candidate for District 9 Supervisor, got up to speak at a rally against police shootings on Friday night, he felt woozy and collapsed. An ambulance was called, Lindo went in, and EMTs told him he had low blood sugar and was cold. He told them he couldn’t go to the hospital.
Along with four others, he was on hunger strike to unseat Police Chief Greg Suhr. The EMTs weren’t happy about Lindo’s insistence on staying.
“They said, why would you do this to yourself? You know, there’s people in this world who don’t have a choice to die and you’re going to put yourself through this willingly?” he said. “I’m like, that’s kind of the point of a hunger strike.”
Lindo recounted what happened while swathed in blankets and a hat, seated under the yellow glow of the lights outside Mission Police Station late Friday night. He looked grey, bleary-eyed and tired. At one point, a supporter handed him a kitten she had just adopted. His eyes widened in surprise – but slowly.
Some 48 hours earlier, Maria Cristina Gutierrez, the 66-year-old preschool director who organized the strike, had said she was trying anything to “soften the hearts” of officials. Here was a weakened Lindo, barely mustering the strength to coddle a tiny feline, the softest possible picture.
So far city officials have said little about the strike. San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee recommended the activists send him an email or letter. Suhr did not return a call for comment.
The concern growing among supporters was palpable. Friends and loved ones hovered around Lindo, offering support, embraces, juice.
“Sometimes you joke about things ‘cause it takes the edge off, but it got real,” said rapper Ilyich “Equipto” Sato, Gutierrez’ son, also fasting. He, too, looked worn out and cold, but could still speak above a murmur. “Our health is a precious thing and Ed Lindo is out here putting it on the line.”
“I guess it was inevitable that something like this would happen, but this just goes to show our dedication…this is just gonna keep on happening ,” said Nick DeRenzi, a member of the Justice for Mario Woods coalition. “It’s unfortunate that it’s gotten to this point, but…like [Gutierrez] said, it’s time to go and take it to the next step and this is the next step.”
Still, Lindo was not in the hospital yet. He was lucid and protesting.
“I may have to end it if I feel as though it’s getting close to what I felt before,” he said. “But I think I’ll be alright…In some ways it’s healing, and understanding what people are going through.”
While advocates responded with an outpouring of support, other reactions were mixed.
“Silence is complicity!” the owner of the kitten, Natalia Garcia, called out to a gaggle of passing girls.
“Why would you say that? We do care!” one of them retorted, offended.
“Cause we’re white?” another demanded as they walked away.
“No, ‘cause you’re whack!” Equipto shouted after them.
That kind of reaction is not uncommon.
“Mostly people don’t know about SFPD brutality and they’re kind of oblivious to what we’re talking about, but when we start to explain everything that’s happened and we tie it to the death of Luis Gongora right here a couple weeks ago, then they start to…they have heard about it,” said Karen Fleshman, a race educator.
“Some people just walk by…It makes people uncomfortable I think, a little bit. They don’t want to make eye contact,” said Natalia Garcia, who also goes by her artist name, La Favi. “And that’s the situation that we have in general…We’re kind of having to, you know, scream. Because if you don’t wanna listen then maybe I have to scream.”