Gang Injunctions and Databases:
In the Hands of Trump & Sessions, It Will Be Horror Upon Horror
January 17, 2017 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
Imagine you're a youth on your skateboard or your bicycle, on the way to the store in a South Central L.A. neighborhood. A cop car rolls by, suddenly slamming on the brakes, forcing you off your board or your bike. Cops jump out, grab you, pat you down, and check your ID. Next thing you know, they're cuffing you, telling you your name is listed as an “associate” of a local gang—and that makes riding a skateboard or a bike a criminal offense. This is the first time you've ever heard that some cop put you on this list. Now you're on your way to jail, facing 6 months and a $1,000 fine.
Or say you're in school and your last class of the day ends. As you head toward home you see a classmate and decide to walk with him. Again you're stopped by the cops, and both of you are accused of being in a gang—so being together in public is a violation of the gang injunction. You're cuffed and taken to jail facing the same charges. What the fuck?!
In October 2016, the Southern California ACLU filed a complaint in federal court against the City of Los Angeles, demanding an immediate stop to the enforcement of its gang injunctions. The legal action brought to light the ugly reality that 10,000 youth—principally Black and Latino—are being unjustly forced to live under “probation-like conditions without a hearing.”
These gang injunctions are civil court orders gotten by the LAPD and the L.A. City Attorney targeting specific gangs and those they’ve identified as alleged members. The orders make it illegal for people the cops declare to be gang members or “associates” to engage in all kinds activities in their neighborhood that would otherwise be legal. These “nuisance activities” can include things like hanging out with members of your own family if they've also been identified as alleged gang members; having a beer in a public restaurant; wearing certain kinds of clothing; using a cell phone; or even riding a bicycle or a skateboard. Many of these injunctions include a curfew, making it a crime to be out in public after 10 p.m.
Living Under Siege
Young people in areas where gang injunctions are in force are often stopped indiscriminately by the police, arrested, and told they have violated the injunction for one of these or many other activities. It’s only then that the youth learn for the first time that some cop put their name on a list of those the police claim to be identified gang members.
One of the plaintiffs in the ACLU complaint told an L.A. radio station: “They basically just gave me the injunction paper and said, ‘Here you go, read it.’” The injunction said he couldn’t hang out in public with certain friends or wear certain clothing because he was a gang member—if he did, he could be jailed for six months. He said he’s never belonged to a gang, but he has to be careful. “I don’t really go into public view much anymore.”
There are now 46 different gang injunctions in L.A. The cops use them to harass Black, Latino, and other oppressed youth in huge sections of the city. These gang injunctions play a key role in a whole system of police terror and control in poor Black, Latino and other communities, criminalizing normal life and forcing people to live in fear, always potentially on the run. They have had a devastating effect on the lives of the youth and others who are targeted. Many have lost jobs, educational opportunities, and even housing. It is almost impossible to get off the injunction; it can take years, and the final decision is entirely up to the City.
Because of the “success” the gang injunctions in the eyes of the authorities, their use has spread to other cities, including San Diego, San Jose, San Antonio, and Chicago. In truth, for the masses of youth in Black and Latino neighborhoods, gang injunctions have created militarized zones, and they have primed the pipeline to prison and mass incarceration.
A gang injunction led to the murder last year of Johnnie Anderson at the hands of the L.A. Sheriffs in Hawaiian Gardens in South Central L.A. Although he had not been part of a gang for years and had just returned to Hawaiian Gardens from working in Iowa, Johnny was still named in a gang injunction. Johnny and his wife were relaxing in the backyard of an unoccupied house when he saw the sheriffs roll by. Living under this Nazi-style injunction, Johnny knew the sheriffs would come back. He didn’t want to go to jail, so he got up, walked away, and ran into an adjacent back yard where he was shot and killed by a sheriff. He had done no harm to anyone; but his life was stolen in an instant.
It Will Get Worse for Black and Latino People Under Trump’s “Law and Order” America
These are the conditions that millions of oppressed people in this country are forced to live under today. Now join that with what Trump and his team of ghouls have promised to carry out. Trump’s nominating convention featured the rabid former New York mayor, Rudy Giuliani, who screamed about restoring “law and order” and “blue lives matter.” Those slogans go right along with a major theme of Trump's whole campaign: a call for enforcing a police state by turning the police loose in the inner cities on an even greater scale, spreading “stop-and-frisk” and “zero tolerance” policing across the country, and silencing even mild criticisms of the police. Trump applauds the Philippine ruler Duterte, who has unleashed his police and vigilante squads to murder “drug suspects” straight up in the street, without even a trial—over 6,000 already since this summer.
Trump's nominee for attorney general, Jeff Sessions from Alabama, is a life-long racist steeped in the culture of white supremacy. When he was nominated for a position as federal judge in the 1980s, Coretta Scott King, wife of civil rights leader Martin Luther King, wrote the Senate a scathing letter opposing the appointment: “Mr. Sessions has used the awesome powers of his office in a shabby attempt to intimidate and frighten elderly black voters. For this reprehensible conduct, he should not be rewarded with a federal judgeship.... if confirmed, he will be given a life tenure for doing with a federal prosecution what the local sheriffs accomplished twenty years ago with clubs and cattle prods.”
While L.A. has 10,000 mostly young people in their gang database, the state of California as a whole has an estimated 150,000 names in its CALGang database. Now put all of the gang databases around the country in the hands of these fascists—with the names of probably a million or more youth and others from oppressed nationalities—and think what will be done with these lists. The gang databases amount to nothing less than a registry of “undesirables” who will be in the cross-hairs of the fascists: Black and Latino people targeted for round-ups and more… inner cities put under actual martial law… mass incarceration transformed into internment camps. And police unleashed to murder with even more impunity, even more wantonly and blatantly—to deliver the unmistakable message that resistance will not be tolerated.
There’s a chance now to stop this horror on top of horror—to stop it before it starts. Not a cinch, not a guarantee, but a chance—one worth fighting for. And the stakes for anyone who cares about the fate of Black and Latino people and all of the oppressed, as well as the people and planet as a whole, are very, very high.
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