OAKLAND (AP) — For the second time in as many weeks, an Alameda County judge on Wednesday didn’t decide whether to grant a preliminary injunction that would prohibit 40 suspected gang members from gathering in an east Oakland neighborhood.
While Judge Robert Freedman did not issue a ruling after the two-hour hearing, he heard an Oakland native steadfastly proclaim that he has never been a member of the Nortenos street gang.
Abel Manzo, who once spent six months in jail after being convicted for possessing marijuana, testified that despite his numerous run-ins with the law, he has not been involved in any gang activity.
“Nope. Never,” said Manzo, 25, who once spent 6 months in jail after being convicted for possessing marijuana. “You guys accused me of being something that I’m not. I’m not a gang member.”
If the injunction is approved, it would temporarily prohibit about 40 alleged gang members from associating with other alleged gang members in a 450-square-block radius, primarily in Oakland’s Fruitvale area.
They would also face a 10 p.m. curfew. Freedman could make a ruling after two scheduled hearings next week.
Since its inception in Los Angeles in the 1980s, gang injunctions have spread across the country to such states as Texas and Florida, as well in London, where authorities recently began using them.
There are more than 60 gang injunctions in California alone, including large segments of Southern California. There are 43 permanent injunctions in Los Angeles covering about 71 gangs and about 5,500 alleged gang members.
Attorneys representing Oakland say the city’s injunction is meant to protect residents in an area terrorized by gangs. They cite an injunction in north Oakland has dramatically reduced crime in the area.
Defense attorneys and critics of the proposed Fruitvale injunction is a civil rights violation, could lead to racial profiling and create division among residents in the crime-ridden lower middle-class neighborhood.
A licensed barber, Manzo said the notoriety has affected business at a barbershop he co-owns.
“People look at me differently,” Manzo said. “People say, ‘Hey, I seen you on TV.’ I don’t gangbang.”
The engaged father of infant daughter, Manzo told Freedman if the injunction takes effect that he couldn’t see his family and other loved ones in the Fruitvale area.
“Yeah, it would cause a problem because I wouldn’t be able to see my aunt, my family and people I grew up with,” Manzo said. “I’m not a gangbanger.”
Manzo’s attorney, Jose Luis Fuentes, said after the hearing that the city has “no evidence” that his client is in a gang.
Alex Katz, a city attorney spokesman, said that there is enough evidence to show that Manzo and the others have gang ties. He said 14 of the 40 mentioned in the injunction have been arrested on charges including crimes including attempted murder, robbery and burglary since the city announced its intention in October.
“There’s an ongoing continuing threat for residents who live in the neighborhood by this gang and by the individuals who we have named,” Katz said. “This is their opportunity to have their day in court.”
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