Judge to decide soon on controversial gang injunction

February 22, 2011 6:55:54 PM PST
In Oakland, a battle of words is expected Tuesday night over a proposed gang injunction targeting the Norteños. The injunction would essentially blanket the Fruitvale District. The City Council's Public Safety Committee is meeting on the matter this evening.

Members of the community are expected to speak. The city attorney's office and the police department are also expected to give a report to the committee about how the current gang injunction in North Oakland is faring so far, and how this proposal for Fruitvale would end up working.

The injunction against Oakland's Norteño gang would cover a 450-square block radius. It would ban 40 accused members from associating anywhere in an area that stretches across the entire length of the Fruitvale District.

"This Norteño umbrella they're talking about, I was part of that umbrella," said community organizer Manuel Lafontaine. He ade it out, but not without serving a six-year sentence for assault. Now he's joined the fight against the injunction. One group says the city is wasting its money on a band-aid solution to a long-term problem.

"The city of Oakland instead of focusing on gang injunctions should focus on buying abandoned buildings and transforming them into youth centers," said Lafontaine.

"We believe this funding that is being wasted by the city attorney could be going to afterschool programs that can have a P.M. service until 10 o'clock in the evening," said Cesar Cruz with Homies Empowerment.

Records show Oakland's city attorney estimates the city has spent more than $760,000 so far pushing for the injunctions in court -- that includes the salaries of city attorneys and police.

"We regulate illegal parking. We regulate all kinds of different activity," said city attorney Rocio Fierro. "This needs to be regulated and it needs to be stopped and there's frankly no price too high to do so."

A lawyer for many of the men named in the injunction says at least half are not gang members and that 15 of them have not been arrested within the past two years.

"Yes, definitively. The first client that I represented on an ongoing basis was Abel Monzao. He has never been convicted of being a gang member. He has never affiliated as a gang member. He doesn't wear red, he doesn't have gang tattoos," said defense attorney Michael Siegel. "His biggest crime is that he is related to a gang member."

Another accused gang member on the injunction list is now in police custody after a chase Sunday that led just outside of the injunction area. The suspect, Ramon Sanchez, is accused of carrying a gun and ramming his car into police cruisers. He goes by the street name "Rambo."

Another court hearing is scheduled for Wednesday on this controversy where a judge is expected to make a decision on whether to grant this injunction for the Fruitvale District.

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