Targeted gang members say they'll risk jail to keep gathering in the Western Addition
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While City Attorney Dennis Herrera can claim victory in winning court approval for his controversial gang injunctions, at least one targeted group is openly defying the terms of the preliminary order, trying to make a statement that they should be given a chance to heal the wounds they helped create.
Alleged members of the Eddy Rock gang in the Western Addition, from the Yerba Buena Plaza East housing complex at Eddy and Buchanan streets, have continued to hold small film festivals and other gatherings in an attempt to show the public that despite being labeled violent criminals, they are making a positive contribution to the community.
As the San Francisco Police Department and City Attorney's Office say they are preparing to enforce the injunction, many of the named parties in the Western Addition say they will continue to congregate within the four-block "safety zone," an area where they are forbidden to loiter, be in the company of other gang members, or engage in other banned activities. In defying the injunction, they risk being jailed for up to five days.
"They're trying to force us out of our community, but we're [going to] fight it," Maurice Carter, a 32-year-old alleged gang member, told the Guardian.
The decision by targeted members to forge ahead with their community-building efforts is an attempt to sway city officials into easing the restrictions of the injunction, a prospect that seems unlikely at this stage.
"We've got the most influence of anybody," said Paris Moffet, whom the city attorney has identified as the leader of Eddy Rock, a label the 27-year-old disclaims. "But they don't think so. Instead of putting us down, if they want to stop the violence, why aren't they helping us?"
Superior Court Judge Peter Busch granted three injunctions sought by Herrera on Oct. 18 against two other gangs in the Western Addition and the Norteños in the Mission. The date for enforcing the injunction remains tentative, and city attorney spokesperson Matt Dorsey said, "Out of an abundance of caution, we will not begin to enforce the injunction against an enjoined gang member until after the proof of service for that individual has been filed with the court."
The city attorney is also holding sessions, with the help of the Gang Task Force, to properly train local police to enforce the measure. However, Lt. Ernie Ferrando of the task force said his unit can and likely will apply the restrictions to those who have already been served.
As of Nov. 26, 33 individuals have been served with injunctions, Dorsey said. Twenty people from the Western Addition five from Chopper City, 10 from Eddy Rock, and five from the Knock Out Posse have been given notice, along with 13 Norteños from the Mission.
Despite the measures being taken by police and the city attorney, which involve careful efforts to make sure only people named on the injunctions are prosecuted, critics of the approach say the injunctions may no longer be necessary in the Western Addition, where many of the targeted individuals seem to have made great strides over the past few months.
"I've been coming down here for four years, and this is the first summer that I haven't had to drive over caution tape," said Sheryl Davis, program director of Mo' Magic, which is based in the nearby African American Art and Culture Complex on Fulton Street. "So something is working."
The last gang-related homicide occurred in May, Northern Police Station captain Croce Casciato said. Police say the reasons for the decrease in violence are varied, but few can argue against its scope. The alleged gang members who have been targeted maintain that they not outside forces or the injunction are most responsible for the turnaround.
"There's been a lot of bloodshed here. We're trying to clean that bloodshed," Moffet said. About the looming threat of the injunction, he added, "We're [going to] stand tall no matter what they say. Everybody makes mistakes. The main thing is trying to better yourself. That's my leadership stopping the violence."
Davis, who helped the film fest at Plaza East secure a digital projector, agreed that the respite in killings is directly attributable to the alleged perpetrators. While she didn't criticize outright the efforts of the city attorney, she did say the recent positive actions by alleged gang members should be noted and that the injunction will likely act as a deterrent to such activities.
Of community-based efforts in the Western Addition, Davis said, they "should be duplicated, not shut down."
But proponents of the injunctions say they won't hinder positive efforts. Nor will it be impossible for targeted gang members to be removed from the list. Public Defender Jeff Adachi is currently pushing for an opt-out provision that would permit injunction targets to petition for their removal by proving they are not involved with gangs. It's an idea that has been supported in concept by the city attorney, though the details have yet to be worked out.
Lt. Ferrando pointed out that the injunctions might help gang members to escape the lifestyle without fear of retribution.
"This gives some guys the chance to leave the area for good," he said, noting that after the first injunction was approved, against the Oakdale Mob in BayviewHunters Point, several members simply never came back to the area and were never served.
Still, those named as members of Eddy Rock expressed concern that their recent positive efforts may go to waste.
"Some of the guys doing the good work are on the injunction. I find that very unique," said Marquez Shaw, a 26-year-old who is described in court papers as a member of the gang, though he is not on the list of targeted individuals.
In a video made by the group during a recent gathering, 20-year-old alleged member Hannibal Thompson says, "We got a lot of good stuff going on right now. Don't take it away from us."