On day 16 of their hunger strike, the group of activists refusing to eat in an effort to unseat San Francisco Police Chief Greg Suhr are growing increasingly weak and, by 1 p.m. on Friday, were driven to the hospital by doctors who have been monitoring them.
The so-called ‘Frisco Five’ were picked up by a group of medical professionals that include UCSF’s Dr. Rupa Marya and medical students who are volunteering their expertise under the organization White Coats for Black Lives.
“It’s starting to get really serious, and on top of that its raining,” said Liam McStravick, a supporter of the strike.
The medical professionals have been observing the strikers out of concern for their deteriorating health, administering daily check-up that includes taking their vitals as the strikers enter week three of their hunger strike.
Citing client confidentiality, Mayra would not comment on the group’s health conditions or how long the strikers would be hospitalized.
“We are just getting checked on, but there is reason for concern,” said hunger striker and candidate for District 9 supervisor Edwin Lindo, while gathering several items from a tent pitched outside of the Mission Police station where he has been camping for over two weeks. This morning, Lindo was unusually terse, and said that he has lost 20 pounds. “We are growing weaker by the day.”
Other strikers also showed visible signs of frailty. Rapper Equipto (Ilych Sato) was the first to enter the white van that transported the Frisco Five to the UCSF for treatment, his head leaning against a back window and a scarf pulled snugly to conceal his gaunt face.
Rapper Sellassie Blackwell, who was checked into the hospital on May 4 because doctors were alarmed by his previous blood tests, was also uncharacteristically mum. The strikers gathered some of their belongings and entered the vehicle, giving no word on when they’d be back or what prompted their pick-up by the medical team.
It is unclear if the strikers will be hospitalized overnight, but Blackwell said that this could “most likely” be the outcome of today’s checkup.
Aside from a lack of solid food, the elements have also contributed to the strikers’ hardship. On Friday morning, the sidewalk where they have been been camping at 17th and Valencia streets glistened from a spell of rain during the morning hours, and the campers have pulled tarps over their tents for additional protection.
“The Frisco Five are visibly weaker than I have ever seen them,” said Nancy Pili Hernandez, an educator and supporter of the hunger strike. “Just talking to them and seeing how they are behaving, they are a lot weaker than they were on the 14th and 15th day. They are not really themselves right now.”
The strikers have received an outpouring of support from their community that includes daily visits from community members and the press. These interactions, though welcomed, have proven to be stressful for the weakened strikers.
“They are sleeping out here on this busy street, I can see that they are fatigued and exhausted,” said Pili Hernandez. “I respect and admire their dedication to putting their bodies on the line…to hope to protect the lives of black and brown men of this neighborhood from future police violence. But it hurts me to see them this weak and this sick.”
According to supporter Victor Picazo, he and others began to pack up the strikers’ tents on Friday afternoon, saying that while protestors would be welcome to continue gathering at the site, the tents would be removed until further notice.