Thursday, Sept. 28, 2017, marked the death of the 1,044th person that we know of killed by Tasers in North America, the most recent in Oakland after a man, Marcellus Toney, tried to flee a multi-vehicle accident. This unnecessary death reveals the primary reason why San Franciscans have consistently rejected Tasers for the SFPD. Yet on Nov. 3, the San Francisco Police Commission voted and approved a renewed proposal to arm the SFPD with these weapons. This begs the question: Who are the proponents of Tasers?
More than 100 people turned out for a community meeting on Tasers Tuesday night, first breaking into small groups of roughly 25 each and then convening in a fiery public comment session that at one point erupted into activists chanting, “No Tasers!” and drowning out Police Commissioner Sonia E. Melara’s calls for order. The Police Commission has voted against the use of Tasers three times in recent years – in 2004 and twice in 2010.
We continue our celebration of the fairer sex this month with Amara Tabor-Smith and Ellen Sebastian Chang’s House/Full of Black Women Project: Episode: Black Women Dreaming, a Ritual Rest, March 26-April 7. In this 10th episode of House/Full, perhaps its largest and longest episode, Black women are invited to sleep, stop during the middle of the day or evening and rest, dream. Black women rest least of all people across race, gender and class.
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.
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.).
I am interviewing Equipto of the Frisco 5 Hunger Strike about the history of their movement, as well as his feelings on the resignation of Police Chief Suhr in San Francisco, after the police murder of Jessica Williams-Nelson. M.O.I. JR: What prompted you to organize the collective that eventually became known as the Frisco 5? Equipto: It was just a group of people that came together and decided to go on a hunger strike. The movement just sprouted from that basically.
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.
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.