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After maintaining a vigil outside the San Francisco Hall of Justice for 52 weeks demanding that the murderers of our children be arrested, charged, tried and convicted, we are marching to Sacramento and will be passing through your city. We are looking for churches where we may gather. Dear faith leaders, if this cause is on your heart and you are interested in your church being open so we may gather, inform and invite others to join in the march to stop the execution of our children, we will be grateful. – Archbishop Franzo King, 415-871-9676
When Chief William Scott had been on the job for just a few weeks, he came to the Joseph Lee Gym in Bayview Hunters Point for a townhall meeting with the community March 9. This first-ever community meeting with the new chief was presented by Wealth and Disparities in the Black Community – Justice 4 Mario Woods. Chief Scott said his goal is to “reduce deaths at the hands of police” and asked to be held accountable. Will Chief Scott be a better chief for San Francisco than his predecessor? We don’t know. But we do know that we will, as Scott said, hold him accountable.
On Wednesday, Feb. 8, the vigil for Amilcar Perez-Lopez amped it up. Usually held weekly from 6-7 p.m. at the Mission District Police Station – where his killers still work – this time we went directly to the home of San Francisco District Attorney George Gascón. Feb. 26 will mark two years since Amilcar was murdered in the Mission District, right outside his residence. Locals know six shots cut him down, fired by undercover cops Craig Tiffe and Eric Riboli.
I went to San Francisco’s 2017 Dr. King Day celebration riding the same wave that hounded every other participant. As I suspected, a tragic election caused crowd levels to swell significantly compared to a year ago. I’d say at least three times the number of 2016 attendees walked in this year’s march. One ugly cloud loomed: the transfer of federal powers – which finally did arrive four days later – had crept oh so dreadfully near.
Veteran R&B soul singer Michael Marshall and Frisco 5 activist and rapper Equipto address the societal issue of police brutality and injustice in their new song “Tonight We Ride.” “People didn’t believe it for so long. Now we have video showing we weren’t making it up,” said Marshall. The goal of the GOFUNDME campaign is to raise $4,000 for completion of the “Tonight We Ride” video and to create awareness around his new movement R.I.D.E (REACT. INVESTIGATE. DOCUMENT. EXPOSE.).
Poor, unhoused, barely housed, indigenous, Black, Brown and Red people don’t have presidents. We have prison wardens, police, sheriffs, anti-social workers, landlords, judges, bailiffs, poverty pimps, case manglers, ICE agents, CPS workers and debt collectors. Under Clinton, we lost welfare and the criminalization and incarceration of young people was institutionalized. Poor people don’t have presidents or governors or mayors. We have ourselves.
We DEMAND that San Francisco District Attorney Gascón perform the duties of his office and charge the San Francisco police officers in the shooting death of Mario Woods, Jessica Nelson-Williams and other victims of deadly police violence. We DEMAND that San Francisco District Attorney Gascón bring forth murder charges against the San Francisco police officers who were involved in the shooting death of Black and Brown citizens of San Francisco. We DEMAND a response from the DA – to whom we have recently reiterated our position in a formal letter – by Nov. 15, 2016.
The news was expected to be bad. San Franciscans for Police Accountability (SFPA), a civilian watch group, held a public forum in the Koret Auditorium of San Francisco’s Public Library. It was Saturday, Sept. 24, and featured D.A. George Gascón’s specially appointed Blue Ribbon Panel – the forum appropriately titled, “Making SFPD Accountable: A Community Conversation.” And what a conversation this was – one I could not miss!
While two heavily armed police officers stood directly across the street watching us, a group of the most impacted, unhoused, criminalized, injured, disabled, Black, Brown, Trans and Indigenous peoples gathered to demand a 90-day moratorium on the killing of our Black, Brown, disabled and unhoused residents of this city and all cities struggling with the ongoing murder of our children, youth, elders and families.
Last week I was alerted to an inflammatory story from Bay Area ABC news reporter Dan Noyes that basically sought to disparage the Black August commemorations. The story noted that “police sources” had leaked an FBI bulletin to him stating that prison guards and police were going to be attacked by members of the Black Guerilla Family in commemoration of Black August. Many found the allegations to be outlandish. Black August is a month that is held to high esteem by many in the Black community who celebrate the resistance movements that have long been a part of our history for the past 300 years.
“Get on the ground! Get on the ground!” Moving in slowly like they were on a hunt, high-powered weapons pointed down, the descendants of slave-catchers aka police stalk an indigenous man crouching on Shotwell Street holding a soccer ball. They shout disgustedly and dismissively in English from the video screen; my heart stops. I try to keep watching, reminding myself I need to wear my reporter hat instead of my trauma-filled police-terror-from-my-life-of-houselessness blanket. We are watching the extrajudicial murder of Luis Demetrio Góngora Pat by San Francisco police. Why did they kill him? “He was a homeless man.”
“Sgt. Lawrence Kempinski, a 17-year department veteran, told fellow officers that he transferred to the Bayview Station in order to ‘kill niggers,’” reports civil rights attorney John Burris. “It is time to launch a search for a new chief who can implement fundamental reform,” announced Supervisor Jane Kim, “As long as Chief Suhr continues to lead this department,” says Kim, ”we will be unable to truly address the very serious problems raised by“ DA George Gascón’s Blue Ribbon Panel’s report.
We, the people, invite you to join us for an unprecedented historical moment: a general strike of San Francisco this Monday, May 9, 2016. In honor of the Frisco 5 hunger strikers and against SFPD killings of our brothers, we urge you to strike from work and school and to boycott corporate stores and restaurants. Instead of going to work or school, join us to peacefully picket in front of San Francisco City Hall starting at 8:30 a.m.
The San Francisco hunger strikers dubbed the Frisco 5 rolled two miles to the doorstep of City Hall in wheelchairs on May 3, demanding the mayor fire San Francisco Police Chief Greg Suhr, but the mayor was not there. The Frisco 5 had not eaten for 13 days while camped out in front of the Mission Police Station. After learning Mayor Lee was ignoring them, they were wheeled into the supervisors’ chamber, demanding the Board of Supervisors pass an emergency resolution to fire the police chief. Later, they rallied outside with a thousand supporters.
As a result of incredible pressure from the community, Mayor Lee finally contacted the Frisco 5 by phone. The Frisco 5 reiterated their one simple demand - fire Chief Greg Suhr. Mayor Lee told the strikers he would not fire the chief and he stood behind Chief Suhr’s record which includes the choking death of Mark Garcia in 1997, two demotions, the Fajitagate scandal, a personal harassment suit that cost the city millions, racist text messages exposed, a crime lab scandal and the murder of Mario Woods, Alex Nieto, Amilcar Perez-Lopez, Luis Gongora and many others.
Five hunger strikers dubbed the Frisco 5 – angered by new police murders of Black and Brown people – have been occupying half the sidewalk in front of Mission Police Station since April 21. It’s Day 13 of their liquid-only fast and they’re losing weight, but they vow to keep it up until SF Police Chief Greg Suhr resigns or is fired. The Frisco 5 hunger strikers are Maria Cristina Gutierrez, 66, Ilyich “Equipto” Sato, 42, Selassie Blackwell, 39, Ike Pinkston, 42, and Edwin Lindo, 29.
The latest front in the fight to fire SFPD Chief Suhr is a hunger strike outside the Mission Police Station led by rapper Equipto and his mother, Maria Cristina Gutierrez, whose idea it was back in 2014 when Alex Nieto was executed by SFPD. She says, “Enough is enough. I cannot live in this city anymore. I will not eat until the chief of police is gone.” Rapper Selassie is another of the Frisco 5, the moniker the press has given the hunger strikers, who have starved themselves for over a week.
San Francisco’s Black and Latino/a communities came together March 18 on the steps of City Hall to launch a united campaign to end police impunity in the officer-involved murders of Mario Woods, Alex Nieto and Amilcar Pérez López. The new Black and Brown United Coalition coalesced after the shocking March 10 exoneration of police in a federal civil trial in the killing of Alex Nieto, 28, by a jury on which no Blacks or Latinas or Latinos had been selected to serve.
Although the courts said we lost, we all know our fight for justice has just begun. Realize the issues of racism, gentrification, poverty and houselessness are all linked and so are we all. So as we continue to fight for the crumbs and bang on the systems that oppress us, we also need to build our own – for Mario, for Sandra, for Alex, for Amilcar, for O’Shaine, for Kenny, for Josiah – for so many more and for all of us.
San Francisco is touted by conservative detractors and liberal boosters alike as the nation’s most progressive city. This is still true in many ways, even amidst towering symbols of gentrification. But, in particular, when it comes to holding police accountable for use of excessive force against communities of color, the City by the Bay is no different from the New Yorks, Chicagos, Baltimores or Fergusons of this country, where cops literally get away with murder. Think this is an exaggeration? Read on.
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