Artist-Led Hunger Strike in SF Comes to an End But Spirit of Protest Continues

The hunger strikers known as the Frisco 5 (Claudia Escobar/KQED)

A 17-day hunger strike at San Francisco’s Mission District police station involving artists ended Saturday night.

The “Frisco Five” (#Frisco5), as the strikers have come to be known, include members of the Bay Area hip-hop community Ilyich Sato and Sellassie Blackwell, along with Edwin Lindo, Ike Pinkston and Maria Cristina Guttierrez.

The hunger strikers were calling for the resignation of police chief Greg Suhr in protest at the recent police shootings of several men from ethnic minority groups.

All five of the strikers remain in hospital where they were admitted Friday night for medical attention.

On Tuesday, May 3, the Frisco Five, in wheelchairs, led a group of protesters to San Francisco City Hall where they demanded to speak to mayor Ed Lee.

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On the way to City Hall, KQED Arts captured a moment of Xiomara Grace singing Sam Cooke's "A Change is Gonna Come" (below). Lee was not available, but spoke to the hunger strikers by phone on Thursday. Lee said he had no intention of asking Suhr to step down.

The BBC reports that more than 30 people were arrested and subsequently released in the aftermath of protests on Friday, May 6 at City Hall.

There are more than 1,000 fatal shootings by police in the U.S. each year, among them a disproportionately high number of people of color.

The protests have struck a chord with the Bay Area’s creative community, with artists openly showing their support of the strikers.

On Wednesday, May 4, actor and spoken word artist Paul Flores performed a free, pop-up version of his solo show about the gentrification of the Mission District in the 1990s, You’re Gonna Cry, on the curb outside the Mission police station in front of the Frisco Five and around 100 onlookers. Singer Rupa Marya -- of the band Rupa and the April Fishes and a professional physician -- was a core part of the volunteer medical team monitoring the health of the Five during the strike.

Actor Paul Flores performs his solo show, 'You're Gonna Cry' outside the Mission police station on Wednesday, May 4 in solidarity with the Frisco Five hunger strikers
Actor Paul Flores performs his solo show, 'You're Gonna Cry' outside the Mission police station on Wednesday, May 4 in solidarity with the Frisco Five hunger strikers (Photo: Chloe Veltman/KQED)

The Frisco Five’s supporters are now calling for a "general strike" on Monday, May 9 at 8am at City Hall.