OAKLAND (CBS/BCN) – An Oakland man alleged by city officials to belong to the Norteños street gang denied his affiliation to the group at a hearing in Alameda County Superior Court on Wednesday.
“No, I don’t belong to no gang,” Abel Manzo, 25, told Judge Robert Freedman.
“I don’t understand how people can accuse me of being something that I’m not,” he said.
KCBS’ Tim Ryan Reports:
Manzo, a barber, is one of about 40 alleged Norteños gang members whom the Oakland city attorney’s office is seeking to subject to an injunction, restricting their activities within the Fruitvale area.
Freedman made no decision Wednesday on whether to grant the proposed preliminary injunction and scheduled another hearing for more testimony for March 2.
If approved, the civil injunction would prohibit the 40 men from appearing in public places between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m. within a 450-block area, as well as prevent them from associating with known Norteños members within the area.
The men would also be barred from intimidating witnesses, using gang signs and symbols, or wearing red, the Norteños color, in the section of Central Oakland. Violations would carry a possible contempt-of-court penalty of up to six months in jail or a $1,000 fine.
The injunction is the second sought by the city under the state’s public nuisance law.
In June, Freedman issued a similar injunction against 15 members of the North Side Oakland gang centered in North Oakland.
City officials claim in their lawsuit that the Norteños group is “a highly organized violent street gang” and that an injunction is needed to deter alleged murders, shootings, beatings, drug dealing and vandalism by the gang.
Oakland police have alleged there are at least 400 Norteños gang members in the city and that gang members were either suspects or targets in at least 35 reported shootings in 2010.
The 40 men named in the lawsuit were identified as active adult members of the gang in a statement filed by Oakland police officer Douglass Keely.
Opponents of an injunction against alleged Norteños members contend it would violate their civil rights and could lead to racial profiling of young Hispanic men.
Manzo was convicted in 2005 of possessing and selling marijuana. He told the court he learned his barber trade while serving a six-month jail term for the offense.
He was arrested again in 2009 for violating his probation by associating with gang members. In his testimony, Manzo said he had stopped only briefly at the funeral of a friend’s son on that day.
When read a list of the other alleged gang members by Britt Strottman, a private attorney representing the city of Oakland, Manzo denied knowing any of them, except for one, Ramon Sanchez. Manzo said Sanchez is his cousin.
Manzo also said that he didn’t know the Norteños color is red.
Under questioning from defense attorney Jose Fuentes, Manzo said he would feel burdened by the proposed curfew because he wouldn’t be able to visit his aunt in the Fruitvale District at night and might have problems driving home from the baseball league games in which he plays.
He said he would be bothered by a ban on wearing red.
“That’s kind of bad for them to tell me what I can and can’t wear,” he told the judge.
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