By Marco Siler-Gonzales
Just outside the entrance of the Mission Police Station, community members are actively starving themselves.
Since April 21, five activists have gone without food in a collective effort to shed light on the police violence against people of color and have said they will not eat until San Francisco Police Chief Greg Suhr resigns or is fired from his position.
Among the activists are District 9 supervisor candidate Edwin Lindo, local rapper and former City College student llych Sato, also known as Equipto, his mother Maria Cristina Gutierrez (the director at Mission pre-school Companeros del Barrio) local rapper Sellassie Blackwell and San Francisco resident Ike Pinkston. They have ingested nothing but coconut water, juice boxes and vitamins since April 21.
Sato was soft spoken and tired on April 26, but worried about his mother’s health over his own. “It’s hard to see her like this,” Sato said. “But I see her passion and that’s where I get it from.”
Gutierrez, 66, has lived in the Mission since the 1960’s and said she has always been involved in social justice but felt the need to do more in response to the injustices that have transpired against her community.
“I go to meetings and marches—nothing happens. We need to do something more radical about this genocide, specifically of young men of color,” Gutierrez said.
Sato told his mother he would join the hunger strike when Gutierrez first introduced the idea. Like his mother, Sato said that many factors have prevented change from occurring within the justice system, but it is ultimately community members’ responsibility.
“There is a lot of fear when faced against a militarized police force, but we need to join in solidarity as one movement and consolidate our own force,” Sato said.
But six days without nourishment has not been forgiving on the activists. Just 48 hours into the strike, Lindo collapsed from low blood sugar. An ambulance was called, but Lindo reportedly told the EMTs he could not go to the hospital.
Still, Lindo is walking among his supporters, speaking with media and smiling at any passersby who walk through the encampment.
“My body is certainly weak, but my spirit is at a level I have never experienced before,” Lindo said. “If the mayor believes we will tire out, I think they should know that we are only getting stronger.”
The hunger strike probed a response from Mayor Ed Lee on April 26 at the Henry Hotel, where he told reporters that he will continue to support Chief Suhr and the reforms police have implemented. Lee said he cared about the protesters’ health and that he will respect their right to protest, The San Francisco Examiner reported.
Suhr said he will not resign and that the police are facilitating the protest, but their tactic could change if the strike digresses into a “health situation,” The Examiner reported.
Lindo, Sato and Blackwell kept an open dialogue with the police at the Mission station on April 26 to organize a dance performance on the street. Officers redirected oncoming traffic on 17th and Valencia to allow the performance.
The interaction between the activists and officers was civil and calm. Lindo said he has even received texts from officers that are in support of the strike.
Everyone gathered in a circle after the performance, and went around sharing their thoughts with the group one-by-one.
“There are moments where we’ve broken down, asking if this is the right thing to do,” Lindo said as he addressed the crowd. “But the thing that scares them the most,” he said as he pointed to the Mission Police Station, “is that we’ve taken their power to hurt us by hurting ourselves. They’re scared of our peace and our love.”
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Send an email to: Marco Siler-Gonzales or tweet mijo_marco