BLACK VOICES

5 Hunger Strikers Hospitalized 16 Days Into Protest Against SF Police

Since April 21, the protesters have survived on liquids like coconut water and cups of broth.
Five protesters on a hunger strike, known as the Frisco 5, were all hospitalized on Friday, their 16th day without solid
Five protesters on a hunger strike, known as the Frisco 5, were all hospitalized on Friday, their 16th day without solid food.

SAN FRANCISCO -- Five protesters were hospitalized on Friday 16 days into a hunger strike in front of a city police station.

Dubbed the Frisco 5, the four men and one woman demand the firing or resignation of San Francisco Police Chief Greg Suhr because of several fatal shootings by police. 

"Due to their deteriorating health, all five of the hunger strikers have been hospitalized," spokeswoman Yayne Abeba said in an email. She declined to specify their individual conditions, but said they would continue to strike while under medical supervision. 

"They will be monitored more closely by a professional group of doctors," said Abeba in a video recorded by Mission Local.

Sellassie Blackwell, 39; Edwin Lindo, 29; Ike Pinkston, 42; Ilych Sato, 42; and his mother Maria Gutierrez, 66, have subsisted on coconut water, juice and cups of broth since April 21 while camped in folding chairs and tents in front of the police building in the Mission district.

One of the protesters reported shedding 15 pounds since refusing to eat. 

Blackwell, a rapper, was briefly admitted to the UCSF Medical Center on Wednesday for blood work, but returned to the group that evening. 

Supporters of the Frisco 5 occupied parts of City Hall on Friday afternoon, according to the San Francisco Examiner.

For the first time, Mayor Ed Lee spoke by phone with the members of the group on Thursday. He'd previously tried to meet them in person by arriving unannounced at the station on Monday, but the group refused to sit down with him. 

Lee told them that Suhr maintains his support, and that both are committed to reforming the department, according to a statement from the protesters. 

The mayor's office didn't immediately respond to HuffPost's inquires, while a police spokeswoman declined to comment about the strikers' worsening health. 

"We wouldn't have any information on their condition," said the spokeswoman. 

The San Francisco police department has been dogged by complaints that officers quickly resort to lethal force in altercations with suspects. In early April, officers fatally shot a homeless man they said charged them with a knife, though critics said the police should have tried de-escalation first. 

The Dec. 2 shooting of Mario Woods, a stabbing suspect, has led to large protests around the city. Woods died from 20 gunshot wounds, and critics said that officers opened fire though he posed them no risk. The Department of Justice is investigating the shooting.

In addition to the controversial shootings, the department has been dogged by a recent scandal over racist and homophobic text messages sent among a group of cops. 

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