Protesters line the San Francisco Board of Supervisors chambers on Tuesday in support of the “Frisco 5,” a group of hunger strikers who refuse to eat until Police Chief Greg Suhr is fired or resigns. (Ekevara Kitpowsong/Special to S.F. Examiner

Hunger strikers say Board of Supervisors is failing on police reform

San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee may have hid from hunger strikers at City Hall on Tuesday, but members of the Board of Supervisors could not.

About 50 supporters of the “Frisco 5,” a group of five people who have refused to eat for 13 days in the name of police reform, entered the Board of Supervisors chambers Tuesday and were soon joined by the hunger strikers themselves in wheelchairs.

The board’s meeting was forced into recess for about two hours while protesters addressed the supervisors.

At times, there were tense exchanges amid an expression of frustration, anger and dissatisfaction of the board’s response to the San Francisco Police Department, which has been troubled by racist text messages between officers and police shootings.

Both board President London Breed and Supervisor David Campos, whose constituents are among The City’s highest black and Latino populations, respectively, addressed the protesters, but their comments were met unfavorably by those gathered who have persistently called for the resignation or firing of Police Chief Greg Suhr.

“No matter what reforms that this department proposes, you have a crisis of confidence,” said Christopher Muhammad, minister of the Nation of Islam. “Nobody trusts or respects this chief. You all can do a lot more than you are doing.”

Breed defended herself and the board, telling the protesters, “We have done a lot of work on this board to try and push for transparency.” She added, “It won’t be an overnight solution.”

Protesters also challenged the board’s allegiances. But Breed countered: “I don’t feel like any member of this board has been a sellout.”

Campos said he wants to work with the community, but also said the demands for Suhr’s job are misguided.

“The idea that you fire Chief Suhr and that solves things, I’m sorry, that’s not what I believe,” Campos said.

Campos directly addressed hunger striker Edwin Lindo, who objected to how Campos was explaining the way policy works. “I’ve been fighting for police reform ever since I got to San Francisco,” Campos said. “Where have you been when we started that fight?”

Lindo responded, “I was born and raised in this city.”

Lindo is a candidate for District 9 Supervisor in the November election — the same seat Campos is termed out of this year.

Sellassie Blackwell, one of the hunger strikers, said he lacked trust in the board’s representation.

“We don’t want to hear poli-tricks anymore,” he said. “I trust none of you all. If you care you would talk to the chief and tell him to step down.”

Roberto Hernandez, a community leader in the Mission, said, “Our children live in fear of police today.” He noted there was disappointment in the community because the diverse board is failing its constituency.

“I dreamed about this Board of Supervisors,” Hernandez said. “I remember when this board was majority white. We fought hard to get people of color, Asians, black people, brown people elected to this board.”

Breed said there was more reform to be done and sought to ally herself with protesters.

“I’m not here to fight with you. I am not your enemy,” Breed said. “I’m not here to defend the mayor. I’m not here to defend the chief.”

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