Cops Have it Wrong on North Oakland Gang Injunction

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OAKLAND, Calif. -- I laughed when I heard about the gang injunction in North Oakland. I laughed because they were imposing a gang injunction on a neighborhood that is very safe. I know because I’ve lived there most of my life.

The injunction, approved by an Alameda County judge this week, makes it illegal for alleged gang members to hang out in a specified safety zone. If they are on the gang injunction list they can’t be outside loitering. There are 15 people on the list, and there are going to be more added in the coming months. The injunction gives police officers the authority to harass and arrest people they believe to be affiliated with a gang.

Violence in North Oakland is not prevalent. The gang injunction was created because of fear on the part of the police and the merchants. It is the result of a lack of communication between the police and the people they need to talk to: African Americans in the North Oakland community.

These cops have it wrong, especially when they label young black men and women as gang members based on their appearance.

In Officer Nadia Clark’s expert declaration on the gang injunction, for example, she shows various tattoos representing North Oakland, proclaiming that they are earned through robbing, fighting and killing.

What she doesn’t understand is that we get tats of North Oakland because we love our neighborhood. Some people are violent, some people sell drugs, but not everyone does it. Having a tattoo doesn’t mean you’re in a gang.

Jontae, a 22-year-old from North Oakland, said the cops can’t understand the gang situation in Oakland “because they not in it. They on the outside looking in, trying to get in. Trying to figure out how the ‘hood works but they really don’t know. Never will.”

Jonathan Bell, a 17-year-old from West Oakland, says cops harass him because of his last name; his brother and father are known criminals. He isn’t in a gang, but he says his tattoos and the hats he wears have caught the attention of local police.

“About twice or three times a week, the police harass me because of the gang affiliated hat. The A hat and the C hat, red and black,” said Bell. “They got pictures of my tattoos, all of them, in the computer system.”

Cops and much of American society see black males as criminals and they won’t stop until they make that point very clear.