Greetings charged-up readers!
Alex Nieto…Amilcar Perez-Lopez…Luis Gongora…Mario Woods…
These are the names of Black and Latino men most recently killed by San Francisco Police.
Heated protests against their deaths erupt in greater numbers, disrupting much “business-as-usual” attitude around The City—angering some commuters, yet inspiring many others.
I went to the all day demonstration at City Hall on May 9th, organized to support the “Frisco 5.”
The “5” had more recently stepped from the shadows, hoping their tactic thrown into the fray could expedite results (stoking pressure on what’s seen as corrupted civic leadership). Local media hangs closely, tracking their highly risky set-up—the “5” employs a desperately extreme measure.
Throngs of officers awaited my approach as I neared City Hall. The vision could have been plucked right out of an Afghanistan war zone—the barricaded building surrounded—all but one entrance blocked for those who didn’t have “city business.” It dwarfed the hundred or so demonstrators I saw marching, or gathered to support nearby.
I mingled among the rainbow collection of protesters not marching: seated on lawns, at pedestrian rest sites, in wheelchairs and perched at curbs, as chants accentuated signs decrying violence by police.
They were parents with their children, the elderly, family and friends of the deceased, students of every scholastic level, Black Lives Matter and other minority advocates—multi tiered “citizens” calling for police reform.
The marchers-in-action reflected their stationary backer’s demographics (among them I saw only a pair who donned the menacing “masked anarchist” image, so hyped in media).
And no visual also of another conspicuously absent group: Black Preachers.
One Black “Priest” actually marched with demonstrators and there were white Franciscan Friars. In the few hours I was there though, no sign whatsoever of identifiable Black Preachers.
Missing-in-action also was any recognizable reporters from local “gay media.”
Besides myself (writing independently for this very reason) no Black gays brought supportive known presence; no white gay leadership (social advocates, elected politicians, hired officials, charity fundraisers in “drag,” or whatever) marched with signs declaring “gay minority” solidarity.
Sadly, it amounts to gay’s continuously missing (or snubbing) greater coalition “opportunity.”
The “Frisco 5,” a snapshot themselves of organizers at City Hall (who in solidarity call themselves the “Frisco 500”) seeks a common goal: not only to keep the victims (named above) resonating in hearts and minds locally, but to put SF’s ever growing list more solidly in the national spotlight—itself an uphill battle.
To do this the “Frisco 5” over the last 3 weeks has taken a drastic alternative approach:
66-year-old Maria Gutierrez; Ilyich Sato, 42; Ike Pinkerton, 42; Sellassie Blackwell, 39; and Edwin Lindo, 29 wage a hunger strike.
Camped outside the Mission District Police Station the “5” vow to fast till the very end unless Mayor Ed Lee meets with them (on their terms) about these specific demands: Lee (SF’s first “Asian Mayor”) must fire Police Chief Greg Suhr and then resign himself—due to inaction, falsified reports and reckless disregard for public life.
Of course in the cases above (like all others) police claim they “feared for their lives,” riddling the incidents with controversy:
“Official reports” allege three of the men (Perez-Lopez, Gongora and Woods) “lunged at them” with knives; they also say Nieto pointed a gun their way, refusing to drop it.
But witnesses, family and friends contradict officials, saying murderous force was totally unnecessary—as do key “videos” in some of these cases:
Nieto (hit by 10 to 15 rounds) was fired at 59 times by four cops—two had actually arrived later. The “weapon” turned out to be a stun gun (Nieto used at work as a local nightclub Bouncer). Perez-Lopez was shot by two plainclothes cops (but an autopsy showed he was hit 6 times “from behind”). Homeless man Gongora was killed by two officers (but a video shows the officers fired 4 beanbags and 7 bullets while immediately exiting their vehicle—never attempting to “deescalate” the situation).
Woods gained somewhat broader attention, covered in my earlier blogs: five Cops cornered him against a wall, firing 15 rounds at close range (but a video clearly refutes the notion police lives were in any danger—or that Woods, who could barely remain upright, raised the knife before shots rang out).
Chief Suhr steadfastly backs official findings that justify police actions in each case (even in light of the videos)—Lee hasn’t wavered in steadfastly backing Suhr.
Further inflaming “Frisco Five’s” indictment of SF’s governors is something nefarious: a “second round” of extremely racist, sexist and homophobic “emails” sent between cops has surfaced. They were revealed in yet another criminal investigation of an officer—Jason Lai.
I’ve blogged about that first round of putrid “texts” (feeding the consensus that SF’s force is too tainted with corruption to police itself). Incidents culminating up to this point caused District Attorney George Gascon to form a blue-ribbon-panel of retired judges; they specifically investigate an alleged “climate” of bias and corruption, so this next “email” revelation truly casts a damning shadow.
Officer Lai (of Asian descent) was being investigated for allegedly sexually assaulting a woman—Lai did resign. Interestingly CNN did cover these text scandals (which I’ve still yet to see on “air”) but obviously with far less attention than that given to other similar national sensations.
And how ironic that the first cop to resign (in that first “text scandal”) was another minority—openly gay & white Officer Michael Robison.
I’ve yet to see any CNN coverage of Mario Woods’ SF incident, which duplicated the same circumstance and level of violent discharge unleashed on Chicago’s 17-year-old Laquan McDonald (which CNN did cover ad nauseam).
13 days into “Frisco 5’s” hunger strike the “Frisco 500” held a May 3rd City Hall rally for them (the first); they were wheel chaired there in a march headed by Wood’s mother and the parents of Nieto—hoping to meet the Mayor (who was conveniently absentee). Afterwards the “strikers” were rushed to the hospital—conditions grave from lack of food. Local media covered the event.
The following Friday evening a scuffle in City Hall broke out between more solidarity protesters and officers. 33 protester’s arrests (for vandalism) made local news, but I heard no media account that 4 “reporters” were actually injured during those arrests.
I’m at the Monday, May 9th follow-up demonstration—it piggy-backs that City Hall scuffle from last Friday. And interestingly enough the blue-ribbon-panel’s preliminary findings will come out this very night.
The “Frisco 5” responded, scheduling a press conference for May 12th back at the Mission Police Station (hoping to be out of the hospital).
You can bet your bottom dollar I was there.
To be continued…