Although a preliminary injunction against 22 alleged gang members that prohibits congregating in public and other activities within one Bayview-Hunters Point neighborhood was granted Wednesday, the ruling judge cut the plan’s curfew requirement and said he was open to allowing the targeted men to associate on “worthy activities.”
Pursued by City Attorney Dennis Herrera, the civil injunction attempts to stop the crime and violence associated with the Oakdale Mob gang by hitting presumed members with a lawsuit for being a collective public nuisance. The injunction would allow The City to pursue civil and criminal charges against those who violate the court order, which limits the activities of certain alleged gang members that the city attorney says create a public nuisance. The injunction creates a “safety zone” within the four-block area, where police will crack down on a number of activities that are presumed to be gang-related.
In court, Deputy City Attorney Machaela Hoctor said the evidence was “overwhelming and abundant” that the 22 members targeted under the court order were operating as a gang within the Oakdale Public Housing project neighborhood. The City’s lawsuit alleges the Oakdale Mob, which has about 80 members, are involved in drug sales, robberies, carjackings, assaults and witness intimidation and that members are suspects in at least 12 homicides during the previous three years.
“The civil rights of the community, the residents’ rights, are paramount to the rights of the gang members that terrorize them,” Hoctor said.
Organizations such as the American Civil Liberties Union and community activists have challenged the use of the controversial crime tool — which has been used in Los Angeles, San Jose and other urban areas nationwide — for broadly taking away the rights of citizens without proving a crime is being committed.
Activities now prohibited under the court order include trespassing on public housing property without permission from a housing manager or a legal occupant of the property and not being able to carry tools that could be used for graffiti, as well as illegal actions such as possessing a weapon or selling or possessing drugs.
Superior Court Judge Peter Busch, however, rejected The City’s argument that a 10 p.m. curfew was also needed, choosing instead to approve a no-loitering provision between midnight and sunrise.
“Given the limits on association, the limits on illegal conduct, the limits on loitering and trespassing, what’s left to be addressed by the curfew is not really gang activity but the individual’s private activity,” Busch said. “It seems to me it goes farther than necessary.”
Busch also indicated that while he approved of a “do not associate” requirement that prevented the 22 men from gathering in groups of two or more in any place accessible to the public, he wanted both teams of lawyers to suggest revisions that could expand a prevision that only allowed the alleged gang members to congregate for church and/or school.
“It may exclude potentially other worthy activities,” said Busch, who asked the lawyers to return with their proposals on Tuesday.
Damone Hale, the lawyer for one of the men targeted as a gang member, said after the court hearing that he felt the judge recognized the potential for law enforcement to abuse a too-broad injunction.
“The court’s consideration of carving out our issues of the curfew and association rights is extremely important,” said Hale, who said he felt the injunction was imposed on the community by politically motivated city officials who want to appear tough on crime.