Police chief forced to resign in victory for Frisco 500

by Dave Welsh

San Francisco – May 19 was less than a month since the “Frisco 5” began their hunger strike with a single demand: that Police Chief Greg Suhr resign or be fired … this chief, who for five years has been crying crocodile tears while justifying every police killing of a Black or Latino person … this chief, who for five years has been vigilantly protected by the mayor, the media and the city’s Democratic political establishment.

On May 3, while Mayor Ed Lee firmly pledged his loyalty to SFPD Chief Greg Suhr, who has been a curse on Black and Brown communities for decades, and Suhr swore he wasn’t leaving, the Frisco 5, demanding Suhr’s ouster, led a long march to City Hall in their wheelchairs with their fists raised, anticipating the victory that came only 16 days later.
On May 3, while Mayor Ed Lee firmly pledged his loyalty to SFPD Chief Greg Suhr, who has been a curse on Black and Brown communities for decades, and Suhr swore he wasn’t leaving, the Frisco 5, demanding Suhr’s ouster, led a long march to City Hall in their wheelchairs with their fists raised, anticipating the victory that came only 16 days later.

On May 19, the mayor forced him to resign.

“We know the power of the people made this happen,” said a spokeswoman for the Frisco 5, whose hunger strike lasted 17 days until they were hospitalized. “We have won this battle, but the war is not yet over.”

Their fast sparked a surge of furious, non-stop protests, including a march of 300, led by the Frisco 5 in wheelchairs, from Hunger Strike HQ at Mission Police Station to a rally of nearly 1,000 at City Hall. Their banner said it all: “Black & Brown Unity against Police Impunity.”

The five in their wheelchairs, after Mayor Ed Lee refused to meet with them, then disrupted the Board of Supervisors meeting – challenging the board to go beyond generalities and actually demand that the chief be fired. A week later, four of the supervisors did just that, adding to the growing chorus.

“We know the power of the people made this happen,” said a spokeswoman for the Frisco 5, whose hunger strike lasted 17 days until they were hospitalized. “We have won this battle, but the war is not yet over.”

What may have been the decisive moment came on May 6, when hundreds of loudly chanting protesters took over City Hall and occupied it for seven hours, refusing to leave until the chief was fired. Called the #Frisco500, they held their ground after closing time, until sheriff’s deputies brutally removed them by 10:30 p.m., with 33 arrests.

SFPD kills again: Jessica Williams – #SayHerName

Earlier on May 19, a sergeant fired one shot at Jessica Williams, 29, a Black woman, apparently after she refused to comply with police orders. She died in the hospital. Police claim she was driving a stolen car, in the historically African American Bayview district.

“It was her execution that finally triggered Chief Suhr’s resignation,” wrote J.P. Massar, the intrepid blogger who puts out timely reports where the people’s welfare is concerned, denouncing “a police culture that allows firing-squad executions and then has the chief claim immediately that they are justified.”

“The Anti-Police Terror Project, based in Oakland was on the job almost immediately as the news of the shooting shot across the twitterverse,” Massar wrote. “They know that in cases like this the police are likely more interested in suppressing evidence and intimidating witnesses, not seeking the truth.”

“It was her execution that finally triggered Chief Suhr’s resignation,” wrote J.P. Massar, denouncing “a police culture that allows firing-squad executions and then has the chief claim immediately that they are justified.”

A group of organizations, including Frisco500, APTP, The Last 3% of SF, Justice for Mario Woods Coalition, #DoNoHarmCoalition and Black Lives Matter Bay Area quickly organized a nighttime vigil for Jessica near where she was shot.

The online publication 48 Hills posted this: “Another young person of color dead. And still, nobody held accountable.”

SF Public Defender Jeff Adachi wrote: “It is unacceptable for police encounters with unarmed citizens to end in bullet wounds and body bags … I am deeply disturbed by reports that the young woman gunned down today was driving away from officers. She was entitled to due process and, above all, she was entitled to her life.”

The online publication 48 Hills posted this: “Another young person of color dead. And still, nobody held accountable.”

Adachi has requested that the California Attorney General’s Office “open its own civil rights investigation into the SF Police Department.” Unfortunately, the current attorney general, Kamala Harris, now a Democratic Party candidate for U.S. Senate, has refused to prosecute any police officer in California for killing unarmed Black and Brown people, despite repeated requests.

Dave Welsh, a retired letter carrier and delegate to the San Francisco Labor Council, is an organizer with the Community-Labor Coalition to Save the People’s Post Office and writes on many issues. He can be reached at sub@sonic.net. This story first appeared on Workers World.