The Echo Park neighborhood council Tuesday night voted “not to support” the proposed Echo Park area gang injunction and to play “an active role in developing positive solutions to the problems that exist in the community.”
The governing board of the Greater Echo Park Elysian Neighborhood Council also voted to send a letter expressing their views to the City Attorney and other city and police officials as well as Judge Abraham Khan, who is considering the city attorney’s complaint.
Board member Kwazi Nkrumah introduced the motion because of the overwhelming opposition to the injunction expressed by attendees. Nkrumah chose not to use the word “opposition” because he considered that negative. The motion was adopted with 15 votes in favor, none in opposition and three abstentions.
Prior to the vote, officials with the City Attorney explained the purpose of the injunction and the process of implementing it. The injunction contends that the behavior of gang members interfered with the “quiet enjoyment” of Echo Park resident’s lives and constituted a public nuisance, said Deputy City Attorney Arturo Martinez. He compared the legal action to an injunction against a corporation dumping chemicals in the Los Angeles River.
Martinez said his office reserves the right to decide to pursue injunction related complaints brought forward by the Los Angeles Police Department. Several LAPD officers attended the meeting but declined to comment. Martinez described the vetting process as a means of oversight and part of the city’s check and balance system.
The injunction would apply to more than 300 members of six rival gangs in an approximately four-square-mile area that includes Echo Park, Elysian Valley and portions of Silver Lake.
At first, the City Attorney’s office was slated to speak for fifteen minutes followed by a five minute question-and-answer period. The anti-injunction activists, backed by most of those in attendance, requested Art Goldberg, a lawyer and longtime civil rights activist sympathetic to the opposition, be granted five minutes to address the board.
Board president Ari Bessendorf denied the request after hearing Goldberg did not have a client in the case. The crowd shouted, booed and refused to come to order, despite Bessendorf’s requests. The board adjourned and then came back and announced the City Attorney’s representatives had ceded five minutes of their time to Goldberg.
The decision not to support the injunction was met by stomps, cheers and a standing ovation by the crowd in attendance.
Goldberg, who runs the Working People’s Law Center of Echo Park, said injunctions have enormous flaws, which result in an “unworkable” legal mitigation tactic. The attorney took issue with the burden the order placed on youth because they were too young to understand which court had the power to remove them from the injunction, if they were misplaced, or how to argue against the restraining order.
“In essence, they go and get slaughtered,” he said.
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Tony Cella is a freelance reporter who has covered crime and grime in Los Angeles, New York City and the Kenai Peninsula, Alaska. Click here to contact Cella with questions, comments or concerns.