Gang injunction foes fail to win support of Silver Lake Neighborhood Council

Sep 4, 2013

Gang injunction opponents voice their displeasure after the Silver Lake council vote

Tonight’s Silver Lake Neighborhood Council meeting ended amid chaos and shouting after a highly divided council deadlocked on whether to withhold support for a proposed gang injunction that would cover parts of Silver Lake and Echo Park.

The meeting was cut short after the vote, with gang injunction opponents facing off against council members and police officers in a series of tense exchanges in the auditorium of Micheltorena Elementary School. At one point, opponents of the gang injunction followed a neighborhood council member who did not vote their  way into the parking lot as a police officer placed himself between the council member’s car and people upset over the vote. “Why did you vote the way you voted?” a man with a camera shouted repeatedly as the council member drove off.

The Silver Lake council had been asked to vote on a measure to deny support for the  injunction, language similar to a position adopted last month by the Echo Park neighborhood council. But the vote ended in a tie, which sent the measure to defeat and prompted many in the crowd to start shouting at council members.

Opponents of the injunction said the council was trying to shut off debate on the controversial measure, which would impose restrictions on approximately 300 members of several street gangs across Angeleno Heights, Echo Park, Elysian Valley and Silver Lake.

Some members of the neighborhood council said they felt intimidated by the gang injunction opponents, who at times heckled or shouted down council members.

“I admire your guts, your  courage for being here,” council member Nadine Trujillo told the gang injunction opponents in the audience. However, “I was very frustrated with the way it was presented to us  … because you were ganging up on us that’s what it felt like.”

The meeting got off to a rocky start over whether opponents would get to address the council before they officially took up the gang injunction later in the meeting. That dispute triggered noisy chants from the audience of about 100 and people and prompted a temporary shut down of the meeting. After the meeting resumed, audience members were given a total of 10 minutes to speak on the topic, with those who spoke overwhelmingly against the injunction.

Several of those who spoke were with the  Inglewood-based Youth Justice Coalition, which has spearheaded opposition to gang injunctions in Echo Park and elsewhere, saying the legal restrictions violate civil rights and are often used to advance gentrification at the expensive of low-income, people of color.

“It is wrong and immoral to subject to any human beings to those constricting regulations,” said one man with coalition. “It is a waste of money that can be used to build real community centers for the youth to be involved in productive activities and enrich their lives and keep them off the streets.”

Several of the council members in favor of the measure said they viewed gang injunctions as unnecessary restrictions on civil liberties and a symbol of the growing “militarization of our streets, as board member Charles Herman-Wurmfeld put it, that leads to more violence. “We have an opportunity to vote against the all-descending spiral,” said Herman-Wurmfeld.

The board voted initially eight to seven to deny support for the injunction before council chair Renee Nahum signaled her intent to vote, which prompted an angry response from the audience. At the last minute, board member Anthony Crump joined the meeting and voted against the measure, which created an 8-to-8 tie, bringing the proposal to defeat.

While Crump said opponents of the injunction had raised valid points, he said that overall did “not see the need to oppose the gang injunction at this point” and that the issue would be revisited if problems arise.

Crump also held the Youth Justice Coalition up to criticism for disrupting tonight’s meeting and previous public hearings on the injunction.

“Quite frankly these tactics they use are intimidating,” Crump said over shouting and chants of “Shame On You” at the end of the meeting. “I find it ironic that [Youth Justice Coalition] cite police intimidation as being a negative of a gang injunction when the scene you see before us tonight is the exact kind of intimidation” they are taking about.

LAPD officers stand between audience and Silver Lake council members at end of a rowdy meeting.

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