by Aiano Nakagawa
On May 19, 2016 around 10:00 AM, 29-year-old Jessica Williams was shot and murdered by the San Francisco Police Department (SFPD). At 3:30 PM, Mayor of San Francisco Ed Lee called for Chief Greg Suhr to resign. Although these events occurred within hours of each other, this had been building up for a while.
Almost one month before, on April 21, 2016, five community members of San Francisco’s Mission District, now known as the #Frisco5 began a hunger strike for justice outside of the Mission District police department. The #Frisco5 demanded justice for their 21 black and brown community members who had been murdered by the SFPD under Chief Suhr’s watch. #Frisco5 was asking Mayor Lee to take action and fire San Francisco Chief of Police Greg Suhr, or for Suhr to step down on his own.
The #Frisco5 went seventeen days without solid food. And without a budge from either Lee or Suhr, their strike ended when the group’s health became a grave concern to their community. The #Frisco5 supporters urged the activists to seek medical attention and the #Frisco5 complied out of love. The #Frisco5 hunger strike ignited a chain reaction of activism, including the #Frisco500 Occupy City Hall.
Less than one month after this act of resistance and power, the #Frisco5 had made enough waves and created enough pressure that when a Jessica Nelson, a 27-year-old, unarmed black woman was murdered by the SFPD, Mayor Lee had no choice but to ask Greg Suhr to resign.
A few hours after the announcement of Suhr’s resignation, three of the #Frisco5 appeared at the live recording of Kamau Right Now! to discuss their activism, and now their victory.
April 21, 2016:
Five activists who are also SF Mission District community members (residents, artists, and educators) known as the #Frisco5 began a hunger strike demanding justice for the SFPD murders of their black and brown community members. The #Frisco5 demanded that either SF Mayor Ed Lee fire SFPD chief Suhr, or for Greg Suhr to resign on his own. Under Suhr’s watch there had been 21 murders of unarmed (many mentally ill, some non-English speaking) black and brown community members.
The #Frisco5 go to City Hall after Mayor Ed Lee fails to speak with them at the Mission Dist. Police department.
May 6, 2016:
After seventeen days without food and no action from either Lee or Suhr, the community begged the #Frisco5 to seek medical attention. Their health had declined so drastically that the #Frisco5 agreed to seek medical attention.
In solidarity with the #Frisco5, the #Frisco500 occupied SF City Hall demanding justice for the victims of the SFPD, including Mario Woods, Alex Nieto, Luis Gongora Pat, and Amilcar Perez Lopez.
May 19, 2016:
There was magic in the air. A magic prefaced by tragedy, heartbreak, resilience, and love. The day started with power: the birthday of both Malcolm X and Yuri Kochiyama. It was also the #SayHerName National Day of Action which is "[A] call to action is to build power and uplift the stories all too often unheard and unseen. Black women, girls, and femmes experience violence and mass criminalization from the police, intimate partners, healthcare providers, educators, and far too many systems of power. May 19th is about continuing the work to end this reality for all of us.”
Then tragedy struck. At 10:00 AM in the Bayview neighborhood in SF 29-year-old Jessica Williams, an unarmed black woman, was shot to death by the SFPD. She was driving a “suspected stolen car.” Was there really no other way to address a possible car theft than murder?
With all of the pressure from activists in The City, Ed Lee knew this was the last straw and asked the then SFPD police chief Greg Suhr to resign.
A few hours after Chief Suhr resigned per Ed Lee’s request and per the pressure caused by the #Frisco5, I went to a podcast recording of Kamau Right Now!, where W. Kamau Bell was hosting and interviewing 3 of the #Frisco5.
Their energy was electric. Their activism had worked! Check out the podcast recording to hear the #Frisco5 discuss their experience.
Vigil for Jessica Williams:
After the podcast recording I headed over to SF where a group of people with Love*, anger, and sadness in their hearts gathered at the spot where Jessica Williams was murdered earlier that day. With glass still shattered across the cement and police down the street surveying the vigil, songs were sung, love was shared, and her spirit was honored.
The community left Love in a place of hate. All in the spirit of activism - all in the spirit of Love. People have the notion that activists are angry people trying to get revenge, and yes, anger does drive activism, because we see how fucked up things are. And when things are this bad, anger is justified. We are so angry because we are driven by Love and the absence of Love is so apparent. If we did not have Love in our hearts, we would not feel anger over injustice. LOVE DRIVES ACTIVISM. WE LOVE OURSELVES AND OUR PEOPLE. WE ARE MOVING TOWARDS LOVE.
*Love; verb: the will to nurture our own and another's spiritual growth.