By Eric Louie
In full disclosure, I am a San Francisco native. It sounds irrelevant when talking about yesterday’s hunger strike march to City Hall to oust Police Chief Greg Suhr in the national debate over police shootings. But it also gives a personal view in what is happening as the city changes with tech money.
Gentrification, with lower-income blacks and Latinos moved out as wealthier whites move in, was linked early to the current local movement against police force. But even longtime residents are seldom born and raised, which many natives carry as a status. Some of the five hunger strikers were identified in media reports as native San Franciscans, which caught my interest. In a seven-by-seven-mile square city with one major public high school for each neighborhood, you didn’t know everyone in town, but probably had the same hangout spots and maybe even friends in common. I didn’t know the “Frisco 5” before, but in my quick search found this 5-year-old video for “Heart & Soul” from hunger striker Ilych Sato, also known as the rapper Equipto. His mom is also striking. Obviously I don’t assume all native San Franciscans will agree with their politics, but seeing images from the 1989 earthquake to Carousel (the former Doggie Diner) at Ocean Beach hit home.
Home is something I think of all the time as I take a 45-minute BART train ride to the city from the East Bay. I remember my high school theater tech teacher at School of the Arts randomly asking us what we thought about never being able to afford a house in the city we’re from. In college, though a city internship class taught by former Supervisor Mabel Teng, we learned about how the city is more younger and single than family. Along the march someone who recognized me from high school said hi, while another who I see occasionally doing backstage work when I’m working with catering companies downtown was also there. It’s rare to see anyone from those days, so it’s interesting to note that not only did I see two yesterday, but another friend from the old days while at the protest last week.
After marching to City Hall, demonstrators learned Mayor Ed Lee was in another neighborhood. Protesters then went to the Board of Supervisors, who were also meeting. During the exchange, one speaker talked about how young white people who have moved to the Mission District drink, play music and trash Dolores Park while people of color would get busted for that. Not that there wasn’t marijuana smoke during the march, or white people in it, but while it might not be the best illustration of inequality to make the news, this is also an example of how some see their safe spaces being taken. Locally, a video taken by a guy mocking a park ranger enforcing the rules went viral last year, not because of those cheering on his right to party, but because it showed the entitled attitude that has come with the growth.
Interestingly, Suhr is a San Francisco native too, attending the private Saint Ignatius College Preparatory. But he isn’t talking much, let alone about his city roots, canceling a pre-scheduled community discussion with Public Defender Jeff Adachi Tuesday night. I’d love to ask him about how this has affected him as a native. Anyway, here’s some video from yesterday’s march, their 13th day without solid food, along with some I got from the sixth day.