OAKLAND (BCN) — Community activists Thursday criticized Oakland City Attorney John Russo’s bid to seek an injunction against 41 alleged members of the Nortenos gang, saying that it would result in racial profiling of young Latino men.
Speaking at a news conference in Oakland’s Fruitvale district, the area the injunction would target, Sagnicthe Salazar of Castlemont Youth Together and the Chicano Moratorium Coalition said, “People are being targeted, and there’s a lot of racial profiling.”
Aurora Lopez of the Stop the Injunction Coalition said, “We’re here to make a stand and say ‘no’ to the gang injunction.”
Salazar said youths in the Fruitvale district “already have a negative relationship with police, and an injunction will increase that.”
Civil rights attorney Michael Siegel, who is representing some of the alleged gang members named in the city’s lawsuit that seeks an injunction, said the suit “is demonizing young people” and implies that “all Latino people in the Fruitvale area are gangsters.”
But City Attorney spokesman Alex Katz said the lawsuit “has nothing to do with racial profiling” and instead focuses on cracking down on gang members whom he said have been terrorizing the Fruitvale area.
Katz said the 41 people who are named in the city’s suit have been included because they have criminal convictions and in many cases have admitted that they’re members of the Nortenos gang.
Russo filed the suit on Oct. 13, alleging that the Nortenos are “one of the most destructive, vicious and sociopathic criminal organizations in Oakland, not just for years, but literally for generations.”
Oakland police say there are at least 400 Norteno gang members in Oakland and that members of the gang have been involved in at least 35 shootings in 2010, either as suspects or targets.
The injunction, if ordered by a judge, would restrict the gang members’ activities in a swath of central Oakland below Brookdale Avenue, east of 21st Avenue, west of High Street, and north of the Oakland Estuary.
The gang members named in the injunction would be restricted from carrying guns, menacing or assaulting witnesses, recruiting young people, selling drugs, vandalizing the city, associating with each other in public, and being on the street between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m., with exceptions allowed for work, school, religious activities or emergencies.
Katz said the people named in the suit have convictions for assault with a deadly weapon, robbery, illegal drug sales, possession of assault weapons, arson, and domestic violence—including domestic violence against pregnant women.
The injunction would be the second sought by the city. The first, issued against 15 members of the North Side Oakland gang, was granted on June 3.
Lopez argued the city is spending “a huge amount of money” to seek and enforce the gang injunction, and she said that money should instead be spent on after-school programs and services for convicted felons who want to re-enter society.
But Katz said Russo believes it’s important to have tough enforcement measures as well as social programs aimed at preventing youths from joining gangs.
“It’s not just one or the other,” he said.
City Councilman Ignacio De La Fuente, who represents the Fruitvale area, said he understands the concerns by some of his constituents about the potential for racial profiling, but he supports the injunction because he thinks gang violence is a serious problem in his district and across the city.
“This is a real-life issue because people have lost their loved ones and children in the crossfire between rival gangs,” De La Fuente said.
Katz said the city would file evidence in support of its bid for the gang injunction in the near future and hopes that a judge will approve the injunction before the end of the year.
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