OAKLAND -- The city of Oakland applied Wednesday morning for an injunction targeting 42 men who are believed to be members of the same street gang.
All are members of the Latino gang Nortenos, City Attorney John Russo said. If the injunction is granted, those men will be disallowed to congregate in public between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m., carry or be in the presence of guns, wear or display gang symbols or commit several specific gang-related crimes within a specified "safety zone" in the Fruitvale district.
That zone is roughly bordered by 21st Avenue and High Street and runs below Brookdale Avenue.
Police Chief Anthony Batts said police believe the Nortenos are responsible for about half the violence in that area, largely through conflicts with rival gangs, the Surenos and the Border Brothers. The men named in the injunction, Batts said, represent about a tenth of the total active Nortenos in Oakland.
The men were identified, Russo said, either through their own professed membership in the gang or their extensive criminal histories -- in some cases, both.
The names listed in the injunction are almost all Latino. Asked if racial profiling was a factor in choosing whom to target with the injunction, Russo said, "We're not just naming a Latino gang and going after Latinos. We'll have to prove in court that each person we're naming is associated with the gang, and the burden of proof is on the city, as it should be."
Because the injunction is a civil action, rather than a criminal one, the burden of proof is more lenient than it would be if charging someone with a crime. The standard Russo will have to achieve in court is "clear and convincing evidence" that each man is a member of the gang, slightly easier than proving it "beyond a reasonable doubt."
"In law school they teach you that 'beyond a reasonable doubt' is basically 90, 95 percent certain," Russo said, "and the target we'll have to hit is more like 75 percent."
If the injunction is granted, each gang member would be allowed to opt-out -- to either convince officials they had it wrong and that he or she was never in the gang, or to prove they've left or are leaving the gang. The panel is formed with one member of the community, one representative from the Oakland Police Department and a representative from the mayor's office.
A Superior Court judge approved a prior injunction in June, targeting 15 members of a gang based in North Oakland.
One of the 15 in that case has requested to opt out, but hasn't had a hearing yet, officials said.
Russo said his office will post photos of all 42 men on his website, www.oaklandcityattorney.org, after he files his evidence with the court next week.
A rally in protest of the injunctions is scheduled to begin at noon today outside the Alameda County Administration Building. Isaac Ontiveros is an organizer of the rally and spokesman for Critical Resistance, which describes itself as "a national organization dedicated to opposing the expansion of the prison industrial complex."
Ontiveros said the injunctions are expensive and value policing and jailing young men over providing them with opportunities to work, learn or otherwise grow out of the dire circumstances in which they're being raised.
"When you literally have schools closing, programs being cut to the bare bones if not altogether, why is it that it's easy for city attorney's office to find seemingly endless resources to police communities?" Ontiveros said. "Why wouldn't it be as easy for us to build up rather than destroy communities?"
Ontiveros also criticized Russo's argument that naming specific individuals means the injunctions are not an example of racial profiling.
"That's ridiculous," Ontiveros said. "How are the injunctions going to be executed? By foot patrol officers, who already have a horrendous track record of racially profiling people."
Finally, Ontiveros said using a person's criminal history to characterize them as a gang member shows a poor alignment of values.
"Just because someone has a prior record," he said, "does that make it OK for police to violate their civil rights? We say a resounding no."
Russo will be filing evidence with the court to support the injunction over the next week. A third injunction is in the works, he said, but declined to say where and on whom it will focus.
Contact Sean Maher at 510-208-6430.