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.