Thousands of Los Angeles men — mainly black and Latino — have had their movements and associations restricted within so-called “safety zones” without a hearing because of gang injunctions, according to activists who have filed suit against the city. Some of them are even prohibited from wearing certain types of clothing. Two of the men, one who lives in Echo Park and another who used to live in Ramona Gardens in Boyle Heights, are among the plaintiffs in the American Civil Liberties lawsuit who describe the restrictions and frustrations they face because they are included in the injunction.
21-year-old Peter Arellano of Echo Park told KPCC that he has never been part of a gang. But he was added to a 2-year-old injunction last year against the Big Top Locos gang after being interviewed by police investigating a vandalism complaint. Says the lawsuit:
“He feels that is under house arrest. Arellano is afraid of going anywhere with his father or being seen in public with most of the people he is close to, even if they are engaging in routine day-to-day activities, for fear that they will be stopped, searched, and arrested for a violation of the injunction. This includes being in his own front yard or porch with his father, brother, uncle, cousin, or friends, because such space is within “public view” and associating there is therefore prohibited by the terms of the injunction. Mr. Arellano has skipped neighborhood gatherings, holiday parties, and other social activities out of fear of arrest.”
Another plaintiff in the lawsuit, Jose Reza, 39, who was born and raised in Ramona Gardens in Boyle Heights. He was made subject to an injunction against the Big Hazard gang in 2006. The lawsuit says:
“He is afraid to travel to or spend time in the neighborhood where he grew up … Mr. Reza has avoided driving into the ‘Safety Zone’ to pick up his son, who sometimes stays with family there, because he fears police harassment and arrest for a violation of the injunction …. Mr. Reza has skipped neighborhood gatherings and social events, and even feared arrest while attending a friend’s funeral.”
The city attorney’s office has not released a public response to the suit. According to KPCC, LAPD officials say injunctions help the fight against gang crime, giving officers a reason to stop gang members on the street.
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