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Judge OKs Fruitvale Gang Injunction

 
Order comes after protests, political rifts and costly court battles

An Alameda County Superior Court judge has approved new restrictions on the movements and activities of 40 alleged Norteño gang members in Oakland's Fruitvale District.

The same judge, Robert Freedman, approved a similar measure against alleged members of the "North Side Oakland" gang two years ago. 

Freedman's decision, which was released Wednesday, comes after more than a year of costly court battles that led to large protests, a rift between some City Council members and Mayor Jean Quan, who opposed the injunction, and ultimately the resignation of former Oakland City Attorney John Russo, who filed the lawsuit against the alleged gang members. Russo is now Alameda’s city manager.

The injunction bars the 40 men from associating with one another inside a 2-square-mile "safety zone" unless they are at work, in school, attending church or counseling sessions, volunteering or meeting with their attorneys. It also prohibits them from wearing gang colors, using gang signs, loitering in the neighborhood between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m., selling drugs or possessing guns, among other restrictions.

Opponents argued that the injunction would essentially legalize racial profiling and stigmatize young Latino men, without preventing violence.

"Judge Freedman's ruling is disappointing but expected, given that the court refused to permit the defendants to present evidence that injunctions do not work and actually damage the community," Yolanda Huang, an attorney for the Stop the Injunctions Coalition, said in a statement.

Oakland's current city attorney, Barbara Parker, said Friday, "This order protects civil liberties while imposing restrictions on defendants that are designed to curb gang violence in Oakland, thereby saving lives and improving public safety."

In his order approving the injunction, Freedman wrote that the behavior of the alleged gang members, who city officials say have collectively amassed 106 criminal convictions, “is indecent and offensive to the senses, interferes with the comfortable enjoyment of life and property, and is injurious to the health of the people in the Safety Zone.”

“In balancing the hardships, the People have proven by clear and convincing evidence that the harm to the community members within the Safety Zone far outweigh any harm to the Norteños,” Freedman wrote.

Freedman originally approved a preliminary injunction against only five alleged members of the gang. The new order applies to all 40 individuals included on the city attorney’s original petition.

According to the city attorney, any defendant who leaves the gang can go through an "opt-out" process to seek to removed from the court order.

The Bay City News Service contributed to this report.

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