Uncompromising Hunger for Justice: Resistance, Sacrifice, and LatCrit Theory
Seattle Journal for Social Justice, Vol. 16 (Forthcoming)
96 Pages Posted: 1 Mar 2019 Last revised: 8 Apr 2019
Date Written: 2018
In this Article, three law professors report on and theorize a nonviolent direct-action campaign of the kind discussed by Dr. King in his famous Letter from a Birmingham Jail. Using the basic steps of the nonviolent campaign as an organizing framework, they analyze and report on the 18-day hunger strike by the Frisco 5 (a.k.a., Frisco5). This direct action protested the extrajudicial killings of Amilcar Perez-Lopez, Alex Nieto, Luis Góngora-Pat, and Mario Woods by San Francisco Police Department (SFPD) officers and advocated for institutional change to reduce the risk of homicides against persons with similarly racialized minority-group identities. Two weeks after the Frisco 5’s 18-day hunger strike ended, San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee called for the resignation of SFPD Chief Greg Suhr. Before firing Chief Suhr, however, Mayor Ed Lee sought to subdue the pressure he felt as the result of the hunger strike by making a shallow peace offering of $17.5 million dollars towards police reform and violence prevention.
First, Brenda Williams uses personal narrative to introduce and overview the Frisco 5 hunger strike, contrasting this direct action with how legal education often accedes to the racial inequities endemic to the criminal justice system of the United States. She asks, where does the hunger strike, as a tool for justice, fit into legal discourse? How does the hunger strike resist dominant legal paradigms that constrain a lawyer’s justice work to the courtroom rather than promote justice work by lawyers in collaboration with community members in the streets of the Mission District in San Francisco? Next, Edwin Lindo reports and reflects on his experience participating in the hunger strike as one of the Frisco 5. Also, he charts a partial history of hunger strikes and their legal significance. Finally, Marc-Tizoc González theorizes the Frisco 5 hunger strike within critical race theory (CRT) and Latina and Latino Critical Legal theory (LatCrit theory). He applies critical concepts and practices like counterstorytelling and testimonio, evokes the critical ethnic legal history de la comunidad Latina/o/x (of the Latina/o/x community), and briefly discusses the political and religious significance of people’s public uses of food under First Amendment freedoms (i.e., free exercise of religion, free speech, petition of government for redress, and peaceable assembly). He concludes by asserting that the Frisco 5 acted within a genealogy of struggle—a fictive kinship of people who have fasted individually and collectively, inside and outside of prison, to protest injustice and to advocate for institutional reform, within historically contingent socio-legal relations of power.
Keywords: Critical Race Theory, LatCrit, hunger strike, race, racial justice, oppression, activism, nonviolent protest, Frisco5, food security, symbolic speech, expressive conduct, civil sidewalk, sit/lie ordinance
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