Supporters at a rally on May 3. Photo by Lola M. Chavez

In solidarity with the five activists who ended their hunger strike Saturday, community organizers have called on the city’s residents to join a General Strike today that will start with an 8 a.m. rally on the steps of City Hall.

The strike asks residents to refrain from attending work, school, and “any corporate restaurant eating and purchasing,” said Yayne Abeda, the spokesperson for the hunger strikers.

“We want everyone to not spend any money in the city of San Francisco tomorrow,” she said.  “Since the mayor only seems to care about money, we are going to hit the city in its pocket book.”

The movement will continue with 17 days of action at City Hall to commemorate the amount of time that the Frisco Five spent fasting and camping in front of Mission Police Station at 17th and Valencia streets, according to Roberto Hernandez, the head of the anti-displacement group Our Mission No Eviction.

Hernandez, however, was not specific about what actions will occur in the next two weeks, though he said they will include vigils and will be non-violent.

“What’s beautiful about the City Hall march is that it was peaceful. We made sure we did it with ‘Amor,’” said Hernandez, referring to a march on May 3 in which the strikers and some 800 of their supporters went to City Hall in an effort to speak to the mayor. “It was non-violent action and that’s what we are gonna continue doing.”

“It’s about the momentum. It’s just picked up, it’s just grown,” Hernandez added. “After the strike, people now have hope. And when you give people hope, they gain courage.”

General strikes usually involve a significant portion of the labor community of a city and grind to a halt important services like private businesses, transit, or city agencies. While this strike appears to have no support from any organized unions, it does have support from various organizations including White Coats for Black Lives, the Anti-Police Terror Project, and four coalitions dedicated to seeking justice in the recent police killings of Alex Nieto, Mario Woods, Amilcar Perez Lopez and Luis Gongora.

Josh Arce, a community liaison with construction union Local 261 and candidate for District 9 supervisor, said organizers had reached out to his union and that the union would hold a meeting on Monday morning to discuss the prospect of a strike.

Hernandez said that the five strikers, Ilych Sato, known by his rap name Equipto, Sellassie Blackwell, who is also a rapper, educators Maria Cristina Gutierrez and Ike Pinkston, and District 9 supervisorial candidate Edwin Lindo, agreed to stop the strike on Saturday after the medical team said it was no longer safe.

Equipto and the other four strikers, who remain hospitalized since Friday, declined to comment on the end of their strike, but said that health-wise they are in stable condition.

“We’re feeling okay … but we are all going through the monitoring process, and they’re looking at us closely,” said Lindo during a phone interview on Sunday. “I don’t know when I’ll get out.”

The five strikers will likely not be involved in actions until their health improves, Abeda said.

The community’s trust in the police department, organizers say, has been shattered following four controversial police shootings of minorities — three of which have involved the Mission District community — over the past two years.

The five hunger strikers began their protest on April 21, two weeks after the fatal police shooting of Luis Gongora, a homeless man who stayed in the Mission District. The strikers said they would continue without food until the mayor fired the police chief or resigned himself.

The mayor and the hunger strikers then began rounds of political gamesmanship. Mayor Lee first visited the police station in an attempt to meet the strikers, but strikers refused to meet with him saying that the mayor showed up unannounced. The strikers then marched on Tuesday to City Hall with a notable crowd of supporters in an attempt to speak to Lee, though he was out of the office.

The next day, the mayor called the protesters but refused to unseat Chief Suhr and defended Suhr’s record as head of the police department. Then, following news that the five strikers had been hospitalized, a group of supporters and sheriff’s deputies clashed at City Hall in a protest that saw 33 people arrested and multiple complaints of brutality.

Hernandez said that all of the hunger strikers are expected to remain in the hospital for the next “two or three days.” The strikers are “weening” back onto solid food, said Abeda, and are being nursed back to health at UCSF.

Equipto did not comment on his physical well-being, but on Sunday said that he remains focused on fighting for police reform. He plans to support a group of San Francisco State University students who began a hunger strike of their own to demand funding for ethnic studies classes.

“I will be there as soon as I’m well enough,” he said.

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14 Comments

  1. i lived in san francisco 31 years, until 1993. now when i visit i notice an enormous number of homeless people, so many more than when i lived there. this population makes the job of the police extremely difficult and dangerous. kathryn steinle was killed by a homeless five time deportee to mexico who had seven felony counts against him. instead of attacking the police, i believe the activists should be protesting at the offices of local politicians, like san francisco’s congressional representatives, nancy pelosi, for instance, senator feinstein, who is a san francisco resident. san francisco police have a horrible job to do. our politicians are doing everything for the dot com population of san francisco, the lgbt community, and nothing for the rest of san francisco. the politicians need to be held accountable.

      1. It’s true. Most of the shooting victims have been housed. One that I know of was not. Protesting at the offices of polticians is valid, and we have done plenty of protests at the Federal and State building. But there is a national trend of shooting black and brown people. The police are being trained to be more agressive. The SFPD of the last couple of years in not like the ones I used to know, who, relativly speaking, were not that bad. City hall IS an office of politicians. And there have been lots of homeless in F since the early eighties. If there are evan more now, it is because so many people are being evicted. And those same folks that move into the homes from which they were evicted are likely to not know who is who in the hood, to be quick to call the police when they see a black and brown person hanging around. To them, such people are immeadiatly firgtening. The police are called, they show up, they shoot quickly, they leave and are not held acountable. The police department is a total mess, the experts who looked into it agree with this. The whole ting is a recipee for disaster, The protesters are to be commended for protesting in mostly non-violent ways, instead of just rioting. These are smart people with good brains and good hearts, repsonding as wwell as they can to a crushing problem that may end in their death.

    1. I agree. The police are doing there job at whatever capacity they can. It is difficult to maintain a peaceful demeanor when your faced with difficult people on a daily basis. Responsibility of the badge or no, those cops are still human. A mother is going to get frustrated with her baby no matter the maternal connection. My friend was held at knife point in the mission walking to work one morning because some homeless jack wanted her phone. Pick your targets correctly people.

  2. The sidewalks in front of Mission Police Station remain blocked by the police.

    The police over staffing of the protests at City Hall and Mission Police station is a glaring example of consciousness of guilt, and forceful demonstration of their impunity to being held accountable to the constitution and the laws of a society.

    Suhr needs to go.

  3. I’m afraid the problem isn’t overstaffing, Fred, but understaffing. The population of SF has grown significantly over the last few years while the size of the police force has grown smaller. If we want well-trained, veteran officers who know how to de-escalate situations, then we need to invest in a highly skilled police force.

  4. Not one word about corrupt DA Gascon and how he’s not indicted a single killer cop. Will the Frisco Five and their support show a little bit of anger over the DA letting cops kill and never be charged?

    1. DA Gascon panel by three retired judges is releasing theri report tonight at 5:30 at 762 Fulton STreet. According to the Examiner, “Preliminary findings of police bias probe find SFPD lacks discipline, oversight”

  5. Calling someone a racist is just wrong Ricardo! If you didn’t realize Juan Lopez-Sanchez was the homeless guy living on the Embarcadero and he did murder Kathyn Steinle in cold blood. Luis Gongora was the homeless guy living on Shotwell in the Mission and was killed because he failed to listen to the officer and didn’t lower the knife he was waving.

    1. Chuck, are you a paid police union shill??

      No one who looked at the facts in the Steinle killing believed that it was a “cold blooded murder” It totally sounded like an unfortunate accidental killing by a guy high on drugs who should never have had access to a gun. But the gun had been left in the car in San Francisco, and everyone knows the police are useless, ineffective about stopping burglaries in autos in San Francisco. The chief of police has no accountability over his officers, the hiring process, or metrics over which cops are doing the job, and which cops got hired because they are family friends of Greg Suhr.

      As to the killing of Luis Demitrios Gongora Paz, 8 witnesses disagree with the described by Greg Suhr to the public.

      As to the killing of Amilcar Perez Lopez, Greg Suhr told the public he was charging Eric Reboli and Craig Tiffe, but two autopsies found he was shot in the back.

      The Mario Woods video speaks for itself.

      The City Attorney in the Alex Nieto case argued that because Nieto was wearing a 49er jacket, the police were reasonable to think he was a gang member.

      1. Alex Nieto was NOT a gang member. He was a proud member of the TGTB community. Many people wear 49ers gear and 99.99% are not gang members. Cardner, stop stereotyping and please do not vote for Trump like you want to. I think everyone is equal. Viva La Raza.

      2. Lopez-Sanchez, while he was high, still murdered Steinle in cold blood. She was just walking peacefully on the pier when he murdered her. It doesn’t matter where he got the gun. It’s the fact that he took it and shot her. No one should walk down any street and have to worry about being shot and dying in front of their parent.

        Having walked by Gongora a few time on 19th Street I can personally tell you there was something wrong with him. The situation was handled incorrectly but when the Homeless Outreach Team itself feels threaten, then something is wrong and since the police don’t have tasers or other less fatal weapons what do you expect them to do? Sit down and try to have a cup of coffee with the guy. He was waving a knife and didn’t put it down.

        I can’t speak about Lopez and the Woods case was another painfully obvious example of SFPD not having a solution to a knife welding person.

        The Nieto case is done. No crimal charges and nothing was found in the civil trial…case done. HE shouldn’t have had a taser in his hands when the police arrived.

    2. Acording tho witnesses who knew him, he did not respont to the commands because they were all in English and he didn’t understand them. And he wasn’t waving a knife. He had a knif on him, because most homeless do, because the police never protect THEM. And it may have fell out after he got shot. The ilegal who was charged with murder was questioned in a language he barely understood, and his “confesion” shoul not be considered the final word, because when questioned in Spanish, he answered quite differently.

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