Rally Against Stay Away Orders and Gang Injunctions!
Thursday, March 8th
Wiley Manuel Courthouse, 7th and Washington St.
The City of Oakland and Alameda County are actively trying to circumvent Constitutional due process protections in the established criminal “justice” system to target activists and communities of color. They are using the courts to impose “gang injunctions” against those they call “gang members”, and more recently against “occupy protesters” via “stay-away orders”. Both types of court orders are police state practices, which misuse the court system for political purposes to criminalize individuals and communities, without actually proving any criminal violations.
Gang injunctions and stay away orders are being used against a person or a group suspected of being involved in a gang, protest, or other state identified “nuisance”. While the gang injunctions and the stay-away orders are different in many aspects, they both serve to punish our community members and violate our rights to assemble without actually convicting anyone of any violation of the law. Gang injunctions use the civil courts and stay-away orders use criminal courts; both expand upon what is considered criminal, thus giving a corrupt police force further discretion and more power to arrest and harass people who have been enjoined or ordered to not be in certain areas or with certain people at certain hours. Because of the civil nature of gang injunctions, there is no attorney (such as the Public Defender) appointed on the defendant’s behalf, thus legal fees are placed on the defendant. If a civil gang injunction defendant lacks resources to hire an attorney, they risk a “default” and the injunction will take effect without allowing the defendant to legally defend themselves.
In the case of occupy protesters, Mayor Jean Quan’s “stay-away orders” are issued without factual findings and before many people have an attorney. The “stay-away orders” are being given as a condition of bail or release on “own recognizance” to restrict where people can be- in this case prohibiting them from being within 100 or 300 yards of Oakland City Hall. In the case of the North Oakland and Fruitvale gang injunctions, those named cannot be in large “safety zones” at certain times, nor can they be with other individuals named in the injunctions, among other restrictions. Both stay-away orders and gang injunctions unconstitutionally deprive our community members of liberty to engage in basic life activities, like associating with friends and family. Gang injunction curfews restrict defendants’ ability to work, and stay-away orders restrict defendants from airing grievances at city hall, taking BART from the 12th street station, or participating in civic life in the central public plaza.
In response to the Oakland gang injunctions, a large coalition developed to oppose the injunctions proposed by the City Attorney. Due to the massive campaign launched against the injunctions, only two of the eleven proposed have been able to be put into effect. The campaign also caused the City Attorney to reduce the number of people named by the injunctions, and make the injunctions somewhat less restrictive, though we see any “gang injunction” as a gross abuse of state power and a sanctioning of police abuse. The coalition has made clear that these injunctions are based entirely on the word of police/parole/probation officer intelligence, which is tainted by racist assumptions of Black and Brown “gang” culture and also specifically targets men who have won lawsuits against OPD for harassment. Also, numerous men targeted by gang injunctions have been incarcerated in the past, and this fact is used against them in court to prove that they need to be enjoined. Thus, the gang injunctions employ a type of double jeopardy, using past crimes as justification for limiting civil liberties when many of the targeted men are trying to get work and live healthy and sustainable lives in their respective communities.
Mayor Quan’s “Stay-Away Orders” are another gang injunction-like tool used to repress and punish those expressing dissent. The stay-away orders have specifically targeted more than twelve people who have been arrested at Occupy Oakland protests and are based purely on the word of OPD and the DA. These individuals have not been convicted of any “crime”, yet a judge has imposed orders that take away their First, Fourth, and Fifth Amendment rights. These orders represent the ongoing political persecution of people who are protesting against extreme economic inequality, corporate control of the government, and police state practices used to uphold this oligarchy. The stay-away orders and other political attacks on our communities show that instead of working to provide real solutions to economic disparity, racism and police brutality, the City uses fear tactics and repression to eliminate political dissent. City officials continue to talk out of both sides of their mouths, saying they sympathize with the occupy wall street movement’s goals of challenging corruption and economic inequality, while sticking riot cops and cruel weaponry on local occupy wall street protesters. City officials often speak in favor of alternatives to incarceration and repression such as “restorative justice”, while concurrently using the court and prison system to instill fear amongst protesters. It is clear however where their cards lie. We must learn from the fight against gang injunctions that the only way to stop stay-away orders in their tracks is to pack the courts and target those officials that are pushing for them for public shame. We cannot let the police, city and DA impose anymore gang injunctions or stay-away orders, and we must fight to eliminate ALL the existing gang injunctions and stay-away orders.