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66-year-old Grandmother Strikes Against Police Brutality, Racism in San Francisco

The San Francisco police department has been involved in a string of deadly shootings in recent years—including the December, 2015 death of Mario Woods, shot 20 times, by five officers (6 times in the back) for allegedly refusing to drop a knife, as well as the fatal shooting of homeless man Luis Gongora in the Mission.

In response to the shootings, and to racist text messages sent by San Francisco police officers, a coalition of activists took to the streets. On April 21, Edwin Lindo, Ike Pinkston, Ilyich Sato, Sellassie Blackwell and Maria Cristina Gutierrez—dubbed “the Frisco 5”—encamped in front of the Mission police station, and began a hunger strike, demanding an audience with Mayor Ed Lee and the resignation of Police Chief Greg Suhr.

Gutierrez, the only woman among them, is a 66-year-old grandmother. They struck for 17 days, by the end of which, all of them had to receive medical treatment. While ultimately deciding to end the hunger strike, in order to channel energy toward a continued fight—the “Frisco 5” drew national attention to the epidemic of police brutality and racist treatment of local citizens by San Francisco police.

Gutierrez had this to say about her decision to take action:

“I’ve been involved in the movement for a long time, and I keep saying, ‘We’ve got to do something—let’s do a hunger strike, and let’s do something and not do nothing.” …Finally, when they killed this homeless man—Luis, he was 46 years old—I don’t know him, but he is me. And I am him. And I said enough is enough.

I said I am old, I can go ahead and die, but I’m going to go sit there on the steps and demand that [Police Chief Greg Suhr] be fired… Mayor Lee has destroyed the city and he’s allowing the police to murder our children. And that’s when I said I’m going to stay here as long as it takes for these people to react and at least come and meet us—meet us with real intentions of changing what’s happening. …

This cannot go on. I’m a mother, a grandmother, my family is a rainbow coalition. We have all the colors. And I said for my children, for the children of the school that I teach in, for the children of this city, for the children of this country, for the children of the world—enough.”

Strength to Gutierrez and the other activists, for their commitment to putting their very lives on the line to create a safer, healthier culture. See her full comments here:

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