Protesters and police engaged in two confrontations on Monday night over the use of bathrooms and public space in and around Mission Police Station where 10 people are staging a hunger strike to unseat the Chief of Police Greg Suhr.
Hunger strikers told Mission Local that around 8 p.m. on Monday, officers from Mission Station – unsolicited by any request from protesters – offered the strikers an ambulance. At the same time, they told strikers they would risk a citation and arrest if they did not move several tents outside the station. The tents have gone up over the five days of the hunger strike and police said the tents were blocking the sidewalk. Protesters declined the ambulance they had not requested.
The officers returned inside the police station without making any arrests, but soon, friends and family of the hunger strikers were turned away from using the bathrooms inside Mission Station. Up until Monday night, protesters had been using the bathrooms throughout their strike.
However, officers told them on Monday night that the bathrooms were out of order. Power inside the public areas of the station had also been shut off temporarily. The strikers had been using the power to charge their phones and other devices.
Incensed, hunger strikers and their supporters flooded the station and began chanting.
“This is how they treat us, they won’t even let us use the bathroom. This is how they see us. We are not going to accept this,” said Maria Cristina Gutierrez, the 66-year-old preschool director who helped orchestrate the strike.
Eventually, officers called in Edwin Lindo, a hunger striker who is also a candidate for District 9 supervisor, to work things out. Lindo was told the bathrooms were closed because they needed cleaning.
“So you’re lying to us?” Lindo demanded.
Shortly thereafter, the bathrooms were reopened, but protesters still anticipated the possibility of arrests in the coming days.
“If we get arrested, the hunger strike is going to continue. We’re going to ask the community to continue to hold space so we are not forgotten,” Gutierrez said.
Ike Pinkston, a teacher at Gutierrez’ school who has also been participating in the hunger strike, said he was ready to get arrested and go to jail.
“I know I won’t be in there forever, and then I’m going to continue striking,” Pinkston said.
But at least for Monday night, that option appeared to be off the table – Supervisor David Campos, who had arrived at the scene, told reporters that he had received an assurance from SFPD Chief Greg Suhr that nobody would be arrested that night.
Campos called locking the bathrooms “silly,” adding, “This is the problem the community has with the police.”
Outside the station, protesters continued to chant.
Amaya Fairley Vazquez, 10-year-old niece to rapper and hunger striker Equipto (Ilych Sato), was emotional.
“I’m proud of my uncle, he explained to me that he’s fighting for black people and for brown people, for us. He’s doing it for me,” she said.
Activists asked their supporters to bring as many people as possible to the station to keep their presence there strong. They plan to hold a rally in front of the station on Tuesday evening, shortly before a monthly police community meeting.