OAKLAND — The American Civil Liberties Union and the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights filed court papers in opposition to Oakland's push for a civil injunction against 19 suspected gang members in a roughly 100-block area of North Oakland.
The ACLU and the Lawyers' Committee filed a friend-of-the-court brief late last week, challenging the proposed civil injunction, which City Attorney John Russo's office requested Feb. 18. A hearing on the matter is scheduled for April 22 in Alameda County Superior Court.
The injunction would target the North Side Oakland street gang — a group Russo said has "terrorized" parts of Oakland. It would create a roughly 100-block "safety zone" stretching to Oakland's borders with Emeryville and Berkeley where people identified as members of the gang would be prohibited from activities such as associating with one another in public or carrying items that can be used for graffiti or vandalism.
Russo's office also proposed a 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew, with certain exceptions.
The legality of gang injunctions was upheld by the California Supreme Court in a 1997 case, but the ACLU and the Lawyers' Committee said in their brief there are problems in the way the city's proposal is crafted.
"For some of those served with this injunction, the area affected by the proposed injunction will include not only their homes, but the homes of many friends and relatives, the local restaurants they patronize — nearly every place they conduct their daily lives," the brief says. "The proposed injunction will profoundly affect their basic liberty, limiting their association with family and friends, their freedom of movement, and their political and cultural activities."
The ACLU-Lawyers' Committee brief focuses on three areas of the proposal, saying it provides too much leeway for police to add people to the injunction without due process, it unnecessarily restricts constitutionally protected activities, and the city hasn't shown the benefits of the injunction will outweigh the possible harm.
"Everyone is concerned about the crime that is happening in Oakland," said Jory Steele, managing attorney at the ACLU of Northern California. "But we want to have effective solutions, and we don't believe this is an effective solution."
Russo said in a statement that the injunction "is intended to protect people who live in this community from a small group of hard core gang members." He disputes the contention that the injunction would give police a free hand to place restrictions on individual rights without due process.
"Police cannot arbitrarily throw anyone into the injunction," he said. "Anyone named will have full due process rights in court and the burden of proof is on the city, as it should be, to prove that they deserve to be restricted from continuing gang-related behavior. Anyone who honestly leaves the gang life can go through an 'opt-out' process to be removed."