Group holds protest at SF City Hall over police brutality

SAN FRANCISCO (KTVU) --   About 100 people gathered Monday at San Francisco City Hall to march and protest over police use of force after five people ended a hunger strike three days ago after nearly 17 days without solid food. 

The demonstrations came three days after protesters clashed with police after the so-called Frisco Five were hospitalized after they grew too weak to continue their protest.

"Today we are going to practice our First Amendment right to peacefully protest because the mayor has disregarded the lives of the Frisco Five," protestor and organizer Benjamin Bac Sierra said.

The group plans to circle City Hall throughout the day and expect hundreds more supporters to show up to honor the hunger strikers, who have called for SFPD Chief Greg Suhr's dismissal following several recent police shootings in San Francisco.

Sheriff's deputies, as well as police officers, have increased their presence around the building. Additionally, metal barriers have been placed in front of the City Hall entrance on Carlton B. Goodlett Place and that entrance has been closed.

"Why not eat at corporate restaurants? Because the hunger strikers did without food for 18 days," Bac Sierra said. "We have to show our economic power."

Protesters and activists are calling for 17 days of action to represent each day of the hunger strike. The general strike includes a boycott of big businesses and asks that people not spend their money at ‘big businesses’ in San Francisco, but rather to support local businesses.

The Facebook page for the general strike asks supporters to skip work and school. 

It urges them to come to San Francisco City Hall, beginning at 8 am. As many as 1,000 people have indicated that they were interested in the event.

“The mayor only understands money,” said Yayne Abeba, a Frisco 5 spokeswoman. “So let’s hit the money.”

The group has been demanding that Police Chief Greg Suhr quit or that Mayor Ed Lee fire him over a series of incidents involving use of force. The protestors have accused Suhr and Lee of fostering a climate in which officers are too quick to shoot people of color.   

Police maintain the shooting deaths of Mario Woods, Alex Nieto and Luis Gongora,  at the hands of police were justified and that they all had knives and refused to drop them. 

"Now it's gone from Frisco 5 to people calling it Frisco 500, " spokeswoman Abeba told KTVU, "and it's the community waking up and saying they're not going to take this anymore.”

Friday, shortly after the hunger strikers ended their fast, protestors descended on City Hall and refused to leave, even after the building closed for the day.

They clashed with Sheriff's Deputies in riot gear, and more than 30 demonstrators were arrested.

Eileen Hirst, spokeswoman for the S.F. Sheriff's Department, told KTVU Sunday "We are making appropriate plans for the event.”

SFPD issued this statement: "We facilitate first amendment action to the extent that they don't break the law or hurt others.”

Later in the day SFPD Chief Suhr elaborated in another statement that read: “We respect the protesters and their commitment to reform. We are relieved that the hunger strike has ended, as we never want anyone’s health at risk. We want to work together to have the best Police Department possible for our wonderful City. I look forward to moving reforms forward with support from the San Francisco community.”

Mission Station, where the hunger strikers camped for more than two weeks, is now surrounded by metal barricades and guarded by officers, to prevent another sidewalk takeover.

The hunger strikers will not be at tomorrow's protest. They are still receiving treatment at UCSF Medical Center.

"They're doing pretty well. They'll probably be there for a couple more days," said Abeba.

"When you haven't eaten for that long, it takes time to reintroduce solid foods to your body and doctors want to supervise that.”

 Also on Monday, the fifth and final meeting of San Francisco's Blue Ribbon Panel on police reforms was held. 

It was formed by the District Attorney last year, after the first batch of racist police texts emerged.

"The blue ribbon panel is examining bias, especially racial bias, in the police department, " Executive Director Anand Subramanian told KTVU, "and we understand the pain and frustration of the communities that have been most affected.”

Past meetings of the panel have attracted activists, calling for Suhr's firing, even though the panel is considering institutional reforms, not the Chief's future.

"The public is most definitely welcome at our Monday meeting, " added Subramanian, "and if protestors come, we'll have to adjust as necessary.”

The panel meets at 762 Fulton Street at 5:30 pm.

Protesters planned on staying outside City Hall until 8 p.m. Their numbers had dwindled to about 25 around 6 p.m.

Officers remained on guard at the doors of City Hall.
 

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