Four journalists allegedly injured by deputies in hunger strike protest

Four journalists were allegedly injured by San Francisco Sheriff’s Department deputies as nearly 200 protesters stormed City Hall on Friday night.

Following the action, 33 protesters were arrested and later released. The protesters refused to leave until they had spoken to Mayor Ed Lee following the hospitalization of five hunger strikers who called for San Francisco Police Chief Greg Suhr to be fired, or step down.

The injured journalists were Sana Saleem of 48 Hills, Natasha Dangond of City College of San Francisco’s The Guardsman, Gabriella Angotti-Jones and Joel Angel-Juarez from Mission district newspaper El Tecolote, according to the journalists’ editors.

Two admitted themselves to emergency rooms, including Saleem whose ribs were bruised, according to her editor, Tim Redmond, and Dangond who said she had a contusion in the back of her head. Dangond is also a former San Francisco Examiner photo intern.

“To the extent we were able to identify journalists and offer them a place out of the fray, we endeavored to do that,” said Eileen Hirst, a spokesperson for the Sheriff’s Department.

These journalists, however, were in the fray, she said.

The protests followed the end of the hunger strike by the so-called “Frisco 5” — Rappers Ilych “Equipto” Sato and Sellassie Blackwell, supervisor candidate Edwin Lindo, and preschool workers Maria Cristina Gutierrez and Ike Pinkston — who began their hunger strike April 21 in response to the fatal police shootings of four black and Latino men by San Francisco police in recent years.

The “Frisco 5” camped outside the Mission Police Station for more than two weeks, and were hospitalized Friday around noon, after doctors monitoring the group determined their health was at risk if they continued the hunger strike.

Yayne Abeba, a spokesperson for the Frisco 5, said healthwise, “they are improving,” since the hunger strike ended Saturday, adding, “solids have to be slowly introduced over a couple of days.”

Members of the Frisco 5 were unavailable Sunday evening, but Equipto tweeted, “It might take me a minute to fully recover from this.” Blackwell posted a photo of himself smiling with his aunt and mother to Facebook, and wrote “God will send you exactly what you need when you need it if you ask for it.”

On Friday, about 200 protesters arrived at City Hall and some lined up against a group of sheriff’s deputies dressed in riot gear.

Video captured at the protest showed sheriff’s deputies allegedly injuring the journalists.

Above, video shows journalist Natasha Dangond and sheriff’s deputies at the protest.

“I’m forwarding what videos I have to our internal affairs unit,” Hirst said. “I would encourage a reporter or anyone who feels they were treated inappropriately to file a complaint and we will look at it.”

Redmond, editor of 48 Hills, and Juan Gonzales, head of the journalism department at City College of San Francisco and founding publisher of El Tecolote, said they would file complaints for the treatment of the reporters and alleged impediment to freedom of the press.

“Demonstrations are tense events, but reporters have the right to cover them without fear of police violence,” said Redmond. Student or not, Gonzales said, sheriff’s deputies “should honor the fact that they have a press credential, they’re media.”

Video of the incident shows a sheriff’s deputy quickly pulling Dangond to a table, hitting her in the back of the head with a baton, then pushing her into the table with the
baton. Someone out of frame of the video then pulls Dangond over the table and out of reach of the sheriff’s deputy.

“I was disoriented,” Dangond said. She was taken to UCSF Medical Center at Parnassus, and said she was told she suffered a contusion. Her head was bruised, and she sustained bruises to her arm.

A video shows sheriff deputies pressing into 48 Hills reporter Sana Saleem. The deputy says, “back up, you’re blocking their path,” as Saleem shouts in pain, and shouts, “you’re hurting me! I’m with the press.”

In a video posted directly after the event, Saleem said, “I told them six times I was with the press.” She said officers would not accept her digital press pass as valid. She was treated in the hospital for bruised ribs, Redmond said.

Friday’s protest left City Hall with smashed front windows and destroyed metal detectors on the side of the building which faces Dr. Carlton B. Goodlett Place, according to City Administrator Naomi Kelly.

The protest’s action of destroying property, “crossed the line, causing thousands of dollars in property damage,” Kelly said in a statement. Repairs are slated to begin Monday.

Following the end of the hunger strike, the Black and Brown Coalition released a statement calling for a general strike Monday at 8 a.m.

“We will not go to work, we will not go to school, we will not purchase from corporate restaurants,” said Ben Bac Sierra of the coalition in a video statement.

Bay City News and S.F. Examiner Staff Writer Jonah Owen Lamb contributed to this report.

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