Reputed gang members challenge Oakland injunction

February 16, 2011 12:00:00 AM PST
The city of Oakland is pushing for a sweeping 450-square block injunction against the Norteños gang. Many of those who would be included on the list showed up in court Wednesday to defend themselves, insisting they're not even gang members.

The men are accused of belonging to one of the most violent and sophisticated gangs in Oakland -- the Norteños. Only some of them, like 22-year-old Ruben Leal, who is named on the gang injunction list, say authorities have the wrong guys.

"Yeah, I'm really mad. I feel like my community's under attack right now," said Leal.

They made their case against what would be Oakland's second gang injunction. It would make it illegal for 40 accused Norteños from hanging out together anywhere in the Fruitvale District.

Javier Quintero, 27, works as a painter and has lived in the neighborhood all his life. He's also on the list. He told the court he grew up with gang members, but isn't one and never has been. City lawyers tell a different story; they say his ties to a Norteños subsect run deep.

"They will deny membership. That's what they do, but you also heard him say that he knows what the Untouchables are and that he knows who the Norteños are and frankly he couldn't come up with any reason why this would be a hardship," said Deputy City Attorney Rocio Fierro.

The Oakland City Attorney's office has been pushing for this Norteños injunction since October.

Police and the city attorney say of the 40 men on the injunction list, most claim membership in the gang. In that group, there have been 159 arrests and 106 adult convictions, mostly against residents of the Fruitvale neighborhood. Last year, police say Norteños were either the targets or shooters in Oakland shootings. Critics argue the injunction is legalized racial profiling.

"Each defendant has their own story. Basically, all the defendants want to make sure that their civil rights are protected," said defense attorney Michael Siegel.

Both sides will be back in court to continue the fight, next week.

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