Hunger strikers calling for Police Chief Greg Suhr’s job were threatened with citation and arrest Monday for sleeping outside Mission Police Station, according to protesters.
Citing a series of recent fatal police shootings, five protesters including a local rapper and a supervisorial candidate have refused to eat while camped out in front of the station since last Thursday.
The hunger strikers — Ilych Sato, known better by his stage name Equipto; Maria Cristina Gutierrez, Sato’s mother; Edwin Lindo, a supervisorial candidate; rapper Sellassie Blackwell; and San Francisco-native Ike Pinkston — are demanding Suhr’s resignation or that Mayor Ed Lee fire Suhr — or, if neither, that Lee resign.
The watch commander on duty at Mission station Monday night declined to comment through an officer at the desk.
Earlier Monday, police designated an area of the sidewalk leading into the police station that protesters could not block. One side of the walkway was lined with piles of water bottles; the other a short row of tents, where four of the protesters have been sleeping.
Tension between protesters and police has mounted in the months after officers shot and killed Mario Woods in the Bayview last December. Then earlier this month, police shot and killed Luis Gongora, a homeless man living in a tent in the Mission. Both Woods and Gongora were reportedly wielding knives when they were fatally shot.
Amidst the shootings, police have begun to implement a series of reforms around the way officers are allowed to use lethal force. The community-police relations office of the U.S. Department of Justice has also initiated a review of the department’s policies, practices and procedures.
Even then, protesters decided to hold a hunger strike to shake up the structure of law enforcement in The City, Sato said.
“We’re going to be here all night and we’re not going anywhere,” Blackwell said on Day 5 of the hunger strike. “If we have to be here for a month, we’re going to be here.”
Blackwell spoke to a crowd of protesters who gathered inside the police station after officers closed the bathrooms to the public around 9 p.m. They began banging on the windows and walls, chanting for the public restrooms in the lobby to be reopened.
“We are putting our lives at risk,” Lindo said. “This is disgraceful. You are treating us like animals.”
A lieutenant at the desk inside the police station told Lindo the restrooms were unsanitary, but that he would reopen them once the protesters temporarily left the lobby, which they did.
Supervisor David Campos, also present at the station, told protesters he spoke with Suhr, who said the bathrooms should be open.
Over the last five days, Sato said he and his four companions have received an outpour of support from passersby. A crowd of about 100 were gathered as night fell on the station Monday, the thumps of hip-hop music bumping into Guerrero Street.
“I’m feeling good,” Sato said. “A lot of support. There’s been some negative, too. Just people trying to instigate.”
At one point, according to Sato, someone walked by and said, “Those people deserve to die.” Another called them the N-word.
But overall, Sato said it’s been “95 percent” support.
Public Defender Jeff Adachi dropped by the station Monday night and said his office would represent the protesters if police arrested them.
“It’s an expression of the frustration that people feel of the lack of reforms,” Adachi said. “Especially in light of the second round of racist texts.”
For the second time, San Francisco police officers were revealed to have reportedly sent racist text messages to one another.
District Attorney George Gascon made the latest texts public April 1 during an investigation into sexual assault allegations against an officer.
The hunger strikers plan to hold a rally Tuesday evening in front of the police station.
“It takes a lot of energy out of me,” Gutierrez said. “[But] whether we get arrested or not, we’re having a rally here tomorrow.”Christina Maria GutierrezCrimeEd LeeEdwin LindoEquiptoGreg SuhrIlych SatoLuis GongoraMario Woodspolice chiefSan FranciscoSFPD