OAKLAND -- Gang injunctions in North Oakland and the Fruitvale district won the support of the City Council on Tuesday night.
In a 4-3 vote, the council decided to continue funding both efforts, which have cost the city about $760,000, mostly in staff time. They demanded that the city attorney not place any new names on the existing injunctions and required that any new injunctions come before them for approval before being filed.
The North Oakland injunction has been in effect since June 2010 and is forbidding 15 gang members from associating with one another, wearing gang colors or going outside in the 100-block safety zone after 10 p.m. The Fruitvale case, targeting the Nortenos gang in a 400-block zone, is moving through county court. The future of its 40 defendants is still in a judge's hands.
The council's decision came after hours of public comment, with more than 100 speakers offering powerful opinions on all sides.
"The people opposing these injunctions do not live in my area," said Fruitvale resident Agnes Ramirez Grace, 78, imploring the council to support the injunctions. "They do not understand that we live in fear. People from the Fruitvale area didn't come here tonight because they were scared. They are afraid to speak up because there are so many killings. People are just paralyzed in their own home."
Owen Li of the Ella Baker Center called on the council to defund the injunctions, calling them obstacles to
"There are not good young people who deserve opportunity and bad young people who deserve to be thrown in jail," Li said. "That division is false."
Ruben Leal, a defendant in the Nortenos case, read a speech to the council saying he and many of his fellow defendants, "like many other people who live in Oakland are heavily discriminated against because we have spent time in prison and are barred from food stamps, public housing and jobs."
"We've done our time," he said.
After speaking, Leal met with Mayor Jean Quan, who said after the meeting she's been frustrated with both sides for highlighting only the defendants who best represent their argument, making it hard to get a true read on how much of a problem the defendants are. She said she hopes to help mediate the rest of the case and save the city from spending any more money.
Voting in favor of the injunctions were council members Ignacio De La Fuente (Glenview-Fruitvale), Pat Kernighan (Grand Lake-Chinatown), Libby Schaaf (Montclair-Laurel) and Council President Larry Reid (East Oakland-Elmhurst).
Voting against them were council members Nancy Nadel (Downtown-West Oakland), Desley Brooks (Eastmont-Seminary) and Rebecca Kaplan (at large).
Brooks castigated the North Oakland injunction as a failure, noting that the only significant crime drop in the safety zone was in illegal drug sales -- a nonviolent crime.
Kernighan said she agrees the city needs more jobs for at-risk youths but that the biggest barrier to creating those jobs is crime, necessitating a strong stance on crime control.
Councilmember Jane Brunner, whose North Oakland district is where the first injunction took place, recused herself. She works for Siegel and Yee, a law firm that employs two attorneys fighting the case, and she promised the court she would stay out of any discussion on the matter to avoid a conflict of interest.
However, those attorneys -- Michael Siegel and Jose Luis Fuentes -- will be withdrawing from the case, to comply with judicial orders that kicked in when the council voted because of their working relationship with Brunner. Three other attorneys remain active for the defense.
"Our most important contribution was probably finding (those three) to join us in this work," said Siegel, in a statement released Wednesday. "As a team, we have done everything we can do to provide a voice in the legal process for an often disenfranchised community."
Thirty-five defendants are still awaiting their day in court.
Because of how City Attorney John Russo crafted the injunctions, every defendant must be individually proved to be a chronic public nuisance and gang member by a "clear and convincing" standard of evidence.
There have been 36 homicides in Oakland this year, and more than half of those were gang-related, police Chief Anthony Batts said. Every year, he added, the city sees the loss of 90 to 120 residents to violence.
"Those are lives," Batts said. "Those are futures. Those are dreams."
Despite supporting both injunctions, however, Batts noted the scores of opponents who came to the meeting to speak out.
"If the community doesn't want it, doesn't think it's worthwhile, that it wouldn't save lives, that it would not serve the purpose, then we should have it evaluated," Batts said.
Batts, Quan and the council agreed no further injunctions will be considered until that third party, unbiased evaluation happens.
Contact Sean Maher at 510-208-6430.