Activists keep up the fight against Echo Park gang injunction

Gang injunction opponents held a press conference outside the Roybal Learning Center/Lucy Guanuna

Activists prepare to deliver a “community injunction” against City Attorney on Wednesday.

By Lucy Guanuna

A Superior Court judge approved an Echo Park area gang injunction last week. But opponents of the injunction have not given up. In fact, on Wednesday, attorneys filed a motion in court to block enforcement of the gang injunction while  community organizers served a symbolic “community injunction” against the City Attorney.

The motion filed with the court lists community members who feel they will be directly impacted by the gang injunction and a request to stop the court order, said Kim McGill, an organizer with the Youth Justice Coalition, the Inglewood-based group that has spearheaded opposition to gang injunctions.  A second motion, which will be filed in the next few weeks, is intended to halt the judgment that put the injunction in place.

“The lawyers have to work with the community groups to put enough pressure on the court system and their representatives to not allow this to happen,” said Art Goldberg, attorney with the Working People’s Law Center in Echo Park, who is working with injunction opponents.

It’s not clear what kind of impact the motions will have on the injunction, which prohibits persons named in the court order from associating with other gang members in public, intimidating or harassing members of the community, possessing firearms or narcotics or possessing alcohol in public. “Gang injunctions have long been held to be constitutional, and we are confident that this injunction will withstand any legal challenge,” said Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feuer said in a statement issued late this afternoon.

The court-approved injunction created a 3.8 square-mile Safety Zone, which includes Echo Park, Elysian Valley and a section of Silver Lake,  that imposes restrictions on members of the Big Top Locos, Crazys, Diamond Street Locos, Echo Park Locos, Frogtown and Head Hunters criminal street gangs.  The injunction will apply only to individuals who have been identified by LAPD as active gang members and have been been named and personally presented with the court order.

In addition to filing a legal challenge, community organizers on Wednesday marched on the City Attorney’s office in downtown Los Angeles to serve a symbolic “community injunction” in response to the gang injunction signed  last week by Superior Court Judge Abraham Khan. The document was delivered by members of S.T.A.Y., an Echo Park based group organizing against the injunction, and the Youth Justice Coalition.  The document claims that Feuer and others are  “failing to honor democracy by refusing to meet with youth, schools and the community before issuing a gang injunction” and “for promoting the goals, prioritizing the agendas and protecting the projects of developers, Business Improvement Districts and wealthy residents.”

Feuer wasn’t present to be served with the community injunction, so Rob Wilcox, director of community engagement and outreach, received it. “Today’s injunction focuses more around the theatre of politics,” said McGill of the Youth Justice Coalition. “It calls them out for the gangster tactics they’re engaging in to put communities on lock down.”

Councilman Mitch O’Farrell of the 13th district said in a statement that gang activity-  including tagging, vandalism, and use of firearms – traumatizes neighborhoods by threatening, harming, and killing people.  “This injunction will give our police department an additional tool to help make our neighborhoods safer,” O’Farrell said. “The injunction will motivate individuals involved in gangs –or those tempted to be involved in a gang, to choose otherwise.”

Statistics show that crime is at its lowest in more than 30 years, prompting many critics of the gang injunction to question whether the issue is really about crime. Many critics believe the injunction aims to further gentrify the area and criminalize young people and people of color in the area.

“I’m not a gang member but I have to look out for the cops, like if they’re enemies,” said Mario Rodriguez, a 22-year-old Echo Park resident. “Every time they pull me over they question me and ask me if I’m in a gang. [The injunction] gives the police an excuse to raid people’s homes and make their family and kids feel uncomfortable.”

LAPD Lt. John Cook, in charge of the gang impact team for the Northeast Division believes the gang injunction is a tool to help make the area feel safer.

“Gang crime may be down but the fear has not diminished,” Cook said. “When you see graffiti on the wall or gang members hanging out in front of a house or in the street corner or park, there may not be any crime that is being committed but there certainly is the fear of potential violence.”

Lucy Guanuna,  a journalism student at Cal State Northridge, has reported on a variety of issues, including business, education and social justice movements in her native Los Angeles. Her work has been published in the Daily Sundial, L.A. Activist, and the San Fernando Valley Business Journal.

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