SAN FRANCISCO— On April 21, five individuals known as ‘The Frisco Five’ began a hunger strike at the Mission Police Station in San Francisco. They were protesting the string of police killings and the ongoing police brutality in the city, calling for the resignation of Police Chief Greg Suhr. The names were read at a rally and repeated for the number of bullets pumped into their mostly young, Latino and Black bodies—four in the last two years, and many before. The last straw has been the execution-style killing of Mario Woods and the gunning down in a rain of bullets of recently-evicted homeless worker Luis Gongora outside his tent in the Mission District, only seconds after the police arrived on the scene.
Initiated by Maria Cristina Gutierrez, owner of a local day care center, along with her son Ilyich Sato, who is an activist and a rap artist under the name Equipto, the hunger strikers also include Edwin Lindo, Sellassie Blackwell, and Ike Pinkston.
Maria Cristina told me about her decision to start the hunger strike: “I was talking to young people about the importance of radical actions. When they murdered Luis Gongora, I told my son, ‘Mijo, I’m gonna go on a hunger strike’. We have to fight for our rights. There is nothing else to do, because they don’t listen to us.”
“We can no longer watch our community be targeted, murdered. We can no longer support a department that is wrought with corruption, criminal behavior, racial profiling and murder,” Equipto wrote in a Facebook post.
On May 3 about a thousand people, led by the hunger strikers, marched on City Hall, demanding to meet with Mayor Lee, who wasn’t there. On day 17 the weakened hunger strikers were hospitalized, and their supporters asked them to start eating again, so they could continue to lead this movement for justice.
On that day the police raided the occupation, barricading it off and spraying the area with ‘green death’ disinfectant. That night, supporters marched to City Hall and occupied it for five hours, until brutally attacked and evicted by the police, who arrested 33 people. On May 9, an all-day spirited gathering at City Hall continued to up the pressure.
These police killings have taken place in rapidly-gentrifying neighborhoods, in the most expensive, high-rent city in the U.S., where evictions and displacements are reaching crisis proportions. The police have become the armed wing of these removals. These attacks, increasingly on anyone no longer exploitable by the corporate ruling class for its own profit, are symptoms of a system that is dying and needs to be replaced.
This movement, galvanized by the hunger strike and beyond, is bringing together people of all ages, backgrounds, and colors. Their demands are that the police be held accountable, and that government respond. Their cry is Enough is Enough! Their cause and vision is of a new way of living and being, based on economic and social justice. They are showing what can happen when people come together around that vision —something unstoppable.
(Update: On May 19, the day police shot and killed unarmed Jessica Williams, 29, in her car in the San Francisco’s Bayview district, the firing of Police Chief Suhr was announced.)