Sunday, August 26, 2007

Gang injunctions: an answer or ethnic cleansing*?

The San Francisco Weekly reports this week on the city attorney's efforts to enforce controversial gang injunctions to curb recent spikes in violence. The injunctions are pushed by City Attorney Dennis Herrera, and are either already in effect and proposed to take effect in the city's Hunter's Point, Mission and Western Addition. Anyone living in San Francisco -- especially folks who've been the victims of violence -- have to take a step back and ask themselves: what do gang injunctions really do?

Chief Public Defender Jeff Adachi calls the injunctions a modern form of McCarthyism. The Justice Policy institute just realeased a study that surveyed several metro areas across the nation and found that injunctions do nothing to stem violent crime in gang-heavy communities. And, as writer Martin Kuz of the SF Weekly points out, there's the unspoken issue of how gang injunctions only clear the path for gentrification:

There's also anxiety that injunctions could hasten gentrification. In Hunters Point, not far from the safety zone created by the Oakdale Mob court order, a 1,600-home subdivision sprouts by the day. Last month, the Board of Supervisors narrowly approved a plan for a 60-unit condo project along César Chávez Street — the southern border of the proposed safety zone — that will further shrink the Mission's low-income housing options. Against that backdrop, Henry Hernandez, a CARECEN caseworker, sees the potential injunctions as the first wave in what he dubs "ethnic cleansing."

I grew up in the Fillmore. I've lost friends to gang life. I've lost a sister to gang violence. As members of a community under seige, I know what it feels like to straddle both sides of the fence, wanting justice on the one hand and revenge on the other. There's no way to take a staunch approach to gang violence by isolating alleged gang members because those same folks causing mayhem on the streets are folks who went to your preschool, folks you see on the regular. I met up with a friend recently who found out who murdered their brother in 2005 and was looking to get revenge. Does that constitute a gang member? Give the community the resources to take care of itself. Imposing strict limitations on when, where and how alleged gang members can meet does nothing -- absolutely nothing -- to curb gang violence.

*term used in SF Weekly story by community organizer Henry Hernandez

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