VIDEO: “Frisco 5” protesters hold news conference to discuss hunger strike, future plans


SAN FRANCISCO (KRON) — The protestors, known as the “Frisco Five,” held a news conference on Thursday to talk about their recent hunger strike and what they plan next in their protest against deadly police shootings.

“While we may have started as the Frisco 5, we have now grown to the Frisco 500 and we will grow to be the Frisco 5,000,” group member Edwin Lindo said.

Lindo, Ilyich Sato, Sellassie Blackwell, Ike Pinkston and Maria Cristina Gutierrez began their hunger strike on April 21 in response to recent police shootings of black and Latino men and scandals within the San Francisco Police Department involving racist text messages exchanged among officers. The group has called for Mayor Ed Lee to fire Suhr, or for Suhr to resign.

The Frisco 5 said they have all suffered health problems from that 12-day hunger strike. In fact, only four of the five showed up for Thursday’s news conference outside San Francisco’s Mission Police Station.

They were surrounded by supporters, all part of a larger group demanding that police chief Greg Suhr be fired.

They said they will escalate their protests and are planning for a community meeting on Saturday.

They also have Mayor Ed Lee in their sights, saying he should not continue to stand behind the chief–and he also needs to go.

In response, Lee has remained steadfast in his support of Suhr and pointed to reforms initiated since the controversial December shooting of Mario Woods in the Bayview District, which was captured on video that was shared widely online.

The reforms include a review of use of force policies, officer training initiatives in areas including implicit racial bias, conflict de-escalation and crisis intervention and programs urging officers to turn in other officers who use racially derogatory language.

The department is also working with the U.S. Department of Justice’s Community Oriented Policing Services on a review of department practices and policies.

The Frisco 5 said they are convincing more people to support them. That includes four members of the board of supervisors who are now calling for Chief Suhr to step down.

The hunger strikers have remained single-minded in their focus on Suhr’s removal, however, and on Wednesday they scored an important victory when Supervisors Jane Kim, David Campos, John Avalos and Eric Mar spoke out for the first time in favor of replacing the chief.

A blue ribbon panel review of the police department was released Monday, showing major problems in the department, including oversight, racial bias, and accountability.

“It is clear that we need a change to address these systemic problems and bring our city together,” Kim said in a statement.

However, the hunger strikers said they viewed that move as late in coming and expressed more skepticism than gratitude for the support.

They noted that none of the supervisors had joined their calls for Suhr’s removal last week when protesters shut down a Board of Supervisors meeting for several hours. They also questioned the reluctance of other supervisors to take a position against Suhr.

“The supervisors acted very late and our health paid the consequences for that,” said Sato, who along with the rest of the group said he has suffered ongoing physical problems since ending the hunger strike on
May 7.

Gutierrez, his mother and the leader of the strike, was unable to attend Thursday’s news conference because of ongoing health problems, he said.

“We need the supervisors to make some bold moves, some bold steps,” Sato said.

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