Oakland gang injunction encourages racial profiling, gentrification

By Reginald James
TheBlackHour.com Editor
In a bold cape-crusading, crime-fighting move, Oakland is seeking a legal injunction to restrict the activities of alleged gang members within a 100-block area of North Oakland.

Gang injunctions are court orders that attempt to reduce crime by prohibiting gang members from certain activities.

If approved by an Alameda County Superior Court judge, it will lead to increased racial profiling in Oakland.

Members of the North Side Oakland (NSO) alleged gang "terrorize our community, intimidated witnesses and recruited children into their criminal enterprise," Oakland City Attorney John Russo contends. He adds, "They are part of a malevolent force that has crippled our city for decades, and continues to hold Oakland back today."

Oakland has never been known for Black gangs. But that changed in June 2008.

Over 400 police officers from 15 agencies took part in, "Operation Nutcracker." The massive, military-style raid of the Acorn Housing projects in West Oakland, which targeted the alleged Acorn gang, created uproar. The flames were fumed when California Attorney General Jerry Brown supported the heavy-handed raid, calling the alleged gang members "urban terrorists."

Last fall, Discovery Channel continued the gang witch hunt with its sensational series, "Gang Wars: Oakland." The show claimed Oakland had 10,000 gang members. Based on U.S. Census data, that means one in 40 Oakland residents, or one person in each of my classes at Laney College is a gangster.

Oakland police will gain sweeping powers to label anyone as a gang member, according to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). Since gang injunctions go through civil court, not criminal, people will not be provided an attorney. This will make it difficult to challenge being labeled a gang-banger.

Gang injunctions are used in San Francisco where, coincidentally, tens of thousands of Black residents have been displaced in past decades. Numerous Black residents in southeast San Francisco were labeled as gang members, preventing them from everyday activities such as talking to people they grew up with. While other factors such as employment and educational opportunities played a part in the, "Black Exodus," policies like gang injunctions work hand-in-hand to promote gentrification, or to remove "undesirable" residents.

And in a city not known for gangs, one must wonder: Does Oakland want to label people as gang members for "gang enhancement" charges to feed the prison industrial complex? Or, are there additional federal and state monies available if Oakland creates a gang problem to combat?

Violence is a serious concern in Oakland, but studies show that gang injunctions are not effective at reducing violent crime. However, they are effective at increasing racial profiling and violating people's Constitutional rights.

One of the Slave Codes (laws that prohibited enslaved Africans from certain activities) prevented three or more Africans from gathering together. Those named in the injunction will also be subject to curfews, and not be able to associate with other alleged gang members.

If this experiment works, it will be expanded and used in other parts of Oakland, Russo has said.

Oakland Police's Strategic Framework (Page 5) even lists the East Bay Dragons, an East Oakland Motorcycle Club, as a gang.

It's young Black folks being criminalized now, but you might be next to be labeled a gang member.

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