Amilcar Perez Lopez. Alejandro “Alex” Nieto. Mario Woods. While these three men may never have crossed paths, their run-ins with the police unite them. They, along with many others, were each unarmed men of color who died at the hands of the San Francisco Police Department, and they’re one reason five activists are entering the third week of a hunger strike. In reaction to a system that targets and disparages blacks, Latinos, and other minorities, The Frisco Five – as they are called – are striking until police chief Greg Suhr is fired or quits.
CNN‘s recent release of another round of racist text messages sent between SFPD officers pushed the activists into action. The ongoing scandal dates back to at least 2015. 39-year-old Sellassie Blackwell, 42-year-old Ike Pinkston, 42-year-old Ilyich Sato, 29-year-old Edwin Lindo, and 66-year-old Maria Cristina Gutierrez are committed to doing what it takes to get Suhr removed from his position. Cristina Gutierrez, for example, is fighting for her grandson. “We don’t want to die,” she told SF Gate. “But we’re prepared to go all the way.”
And on Wednesday, one of them cut it close. Blackwell ended up in the hospital and received treatment for blood issues, according to the San Francisco Examiner. Lindo said Blackwell’s initial lab results didn’t look good. “The doctors said there were some issues with the initial lab tests, because it may be serious,” he said. “The doctor said [Blackwell] wouldn’t be in this position if he wasn’t in the strike.”
On May 3 – the day before Sellassie’s hospitalization – the Frisco Five were wheeled through the streets of San Francisco as they made their way from the Mission District to City Hall. They, backed by 800 people, hoped to meet with Mayor Ed Lee on Tuesday, but when they arrived, an aide told them that Lee was in the Bayview, according to Mission Local. Cristina Gutierrez told the aide, Diana Oliva-Aroche, that as a Latina, she should feel remorseful to “serve such an administration, the people that have been having our people murdered.”
Another protester, Christopher Muhammad, asked Oliva-Aroche to call her boss and inform him about the Frisco Five since the two locations are only 10 minutes apart. Oliva-Aroche said she didn’t have the mayor’s phone number. “How can you tell me that you don’t have your boss’ number?” Pinkston, one of the Frisco Five, said.
On Monday, Lee tried to meet the strikers at the Mission District police station, but the five didn’t want to meet on his terms. Instead, they said they’d meet him after their march. “He’s got to do better than that slippery sliding act,” Pinkston said. “He wants to avoid the media and we know that this is why he pulled that stunt.”
Though they didn’t get to voice their concerns with the mayor, the five entered a Board of Supervisors meeting and called out the group, who defended themselves by saying they were for police reform.
Check out video of their march below: