NLGSF Condemns Spread of Ineffective Gang Injunctions

Judge's Decision to Grant Preliminary Injunction Criminalizes People of Color

San Francisco: Superior Court Judge Patrick Mahoney ruled yesterday to grant a preliminary injunction against alleged gang members in the Mission District, severely restricting their abilities to live, work, associate and express themselves. In asking for the injunction, City Attorney Dennis Herrera relied entirely on information from law enforcement, while defense attorneys presented a number of statements from community members in opposition to the injunction. This follows an injunction already in place in Bayview Hunters Point, and coincides with a request for a similar injunction in the Western Addition.

The National Lawyers Guild San Francisco Bay Area (NLGSF) opposes these restrictions as criminalizing people of color, putting too much power in the hands of already powerful and sometimes abusive law enforcement, being ineffective tools against community violence. Similar injunctions have been used in other parts of California, most notably Southern California where dozens of injunctions have been granted. Research cited in a recent Justice Policy Institute study show that such injunctions have rarely been effective and in some cases increases in violence followed.

"At a time when people of color from all three of these neighborhoods are being displaced by condos and facing failing schools it is abhorrent that our city attorney is spending his time and energy criminalizing residents," said Carlos Villarreal, Executive Director of the NLGSF.

Two people were excluded from the injunction by Judge Mahoney because of insufficient evidence that they were gang members. Most of the people named, however, did not have representation and could not put forward an adequate defense. Defendants are not entitled to legal representation in civil court, where this injunction was sought, but if they violate the injunction by wearing red or being in the presence of the other people named in the injunction they could face criminal charges.

"This injunction is an end run around criminal justice protections and eliminates safeguards against abuse by law enforcement and prosecutors," said Karl Krooth, a NLGSF Board Member whose representation of a man who works in the Mission led to an exception for red uniforms.