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There Are Now Twice as Many Hunger Strikers Camped Out at the Mission Police Station

"We have exhausted every other option," they say.

Ike Pinkston, right, passed out briefly on Saturday night. He hasn't eaten since the strike began on Thursday.

 

The number of hunger strikers outside Mission Police Station on Valencia and 17th streets has been growing. On Thursday, there were four. Today, there are about 10, says spokesperson Yayne Abeba, who spent Sunday out in front of the station with the protesters. They are demanding the resignation of Police Chief Greg Suhr over the spate of officer-involved shootings that have killed Alex Nieto, Amilcar Perez-Lopez, Mario Woods and, most recently, Luis Gongora. Protests demanding that Mayor Ed Lee fire the chief have occasionally interrupted the mayor, but the power structures that be have shown no signs of crumbling. “We’ve exhausted every other option,” says Abeba.

The strikers include Maria-Cristina Gutierrez, executive director of Compañeros del Barrio preschool; her son, Ilych Sato, aka the rapper Equipto; District 9 supervisor candidate Edwin Lindo; and preschool teacher Ike Pinkston. Asked whether the police shooting of Luis Gongora on April 7 inspired the hunger strike, Abeba says it’s been a long time coming: “Cristina had been talking about doing a hunger strike for a while, when Alex Nieto was killed in 2014. After the most recent one, she said, ‘Enough is enough. I cannot live in this city anymore. I will not eat until the chief of police is gone.’” 

The mayor’s office has kept a polite distance from the protest. Asked about the hunger strike and a nearby demonstration against clearing the tents of homeless people, Lee told CBS: “If there are groups out there that feel we’re not doing enough, I invite them to give us their opinions through the Police Commission or through their letters or their emails. We’ve been reading all of it.”

That response has been met with incredulity among the hunger strikers. Equipto tweeted, “your response to our hunger strike, we should email you???” Abeba says, “It’s basically, ‘Let them eat cake.’”  

In response an email and text from San Francisco asking if the mayor will meet with the protesters, spokesperson Christine Falvey replied: “What the mayor wants and what the community want are police reforms now,” and invoked the current review undertaken by the Department of Justice with the city’s cooperation. “If the purpose is to draw attention to police reforms, the issue is clearly front and center in the Mayor’s Administration, the Police Commission, and the entire community and it will continue to be,” Falvey added.

For Abeba, that reform process is, quite simply, “a joke,” because “it’s not a true criminal investigation of the SFPD.”

Supporters have been bringing the strikers fluids such as broth, coconut water, and electrolyte water, along with sleeping bags, blankets, and hand warmers. On Saturday, a mariachi band stopped by to serenade them.

The strike has been peaceful. The uniformed officers at Mission Police Station “have been fine” with the protesters, says Abeba—allowing them to come in to use the bathroom and charge their phones. But not everyone has been courteous. “The face of the station is being very nice,” she allows. “But there are these undercover officers who stand on the balcony above where we are and point and laugh. Or drive by on the street and laugh, like it’s a joke that they’re killing people.”

“That shows there is a culture where they think that behavior is acceptable," says Abeba. "And that comes from the top.”

 

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