Residents criticize police crackdowns, raids and injunctions
LOS ANGELES (FinalCall.com) – As media images of military arrests and intelligence work in the “war on terror” increase, many residents here say the war is being waged in their communities as they endure similar tactics.
“The war on terrorism is hitting too close to home, and has only compounded problems for inner-city residents,” stated Kevin Hodges, a former gang member who is now the public safety chairman for the Nickerson Gardens Housing Projects.
Controversy has surrounded L.A. County’s growing use of injunctions against gangs, which bans members from public association, loitering, gambling and blocking traffic. More alarming was the mid-summer, early morning raids in several “gang” neighborhoods by over 400 law enforcement officers from the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI), Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), and the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD).
These military and legal crackdowns have garnered mixed opinions from those seeking an end to personal and collective urban warfare suffering.
“The residents of Nickerson Gardens have the right to live in a safe and peaceful neighborhood, just like every other resident in the City of Los Angeles,” stated Councilwoman Janice Hahn, in a City Attorney Press Release announcing the embargo, which she supports.
The latest injunction, against a notorious gang faction called the Bounty Hunters, marks the 17th obtained in the county since California adopted the use of public nuisance laws in 1997.
But despite city officials’ belief that the injunctions are effective tools against drive-by shootings and gang-related murders, gang violence is increasing and drugs are still being sold, stated Stan Muhammad of Venice 2000, a gang intervention group. Obviously, he said, the tactic is simply not working.
“We’re in red alert because we don’t even have time to deal on that level, and these laws that are being passed are not only going to affect the gang members, but the mothers, grandparents, children and society,” he said, referring to the rapid loss of human and civil rights.
Although some residents appreciate and even join advocate warnings against revoked civil rights under the Homeland Security Act and Patriot Acts I and II, others, however, stress that they must focus on physical survival, especially for the youth. They believe that covert operations are being used to eliminate not just local street gangs, but ultimately all Black men and boys.
Bro. Sinclair X, a resident of Pueblos Del Rio housing projects since birth, witnessed the multi-agency raid in his neighborhood wherein, according to a LAPD press release, agents served warrants and made arrests that netted drugs, weapons, and money.
At the time, he recalled the admonitions delivered in the 1980s “Stop The Killing” lecture tour of the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan. Min. Farrakhan warned inner-city youth then that the FBI and CIA agents who were displaced at the end of European wars would infiltrate America’s gangs in an effort to move on young Black males, in particular, for fear of their strength and rise.
“A couple of guys walked up to me personally and said, ‘Min. Farrakhan said this would happen, but we weren’t ready for it,’ ” he recounted.
Those brothers remaining in the community, he continued, must heed Min. Farrakhan’s words and unite, because their women and children are suffering.
“It put the hurting on their hearts, but they can’t control their sons or nephews, but the LAPD will. They’re scared to come outside, and of being shot or hassled for no reason,” he shared.
According to Mr. Hodges, residents feel more harassed than assisted by injunctions, which he considers band-aids for a deeply rooted problem. “There are too many loopholes in the system that set up the community in a negative way,” he said. He went on to explain that “gangs” have become a code word for racial profiling, and the clothing of youth culture is used as a basis for judging a person’s gang affiliation, whether they have a criminal record or not.
He believes that more education and training are key, and community policing is a more suitable vehicle for homeland security. “We need more support. We’ve been maintaining 10 years of the (1992 gang) truce that was initiated right here in Watts. Everybody tends to look at the negative, but not the good that we’re doing,” he stated.
Activist Cynthia Mendenhall believes that none of the problems currently strangling the inner cities are coincidental. Despite the blatant planning against Black life, she says there is a way out through change, if the “haves” would assist the “have-nots.” If everyone would listen and act on the guidance from the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan, an honest, proven leader, said the Imperial Courts resident, there would be hope.
Resident activists also stress the necessity of the “old guard” leadership willingness to pass the battle baton to them, along with their knowledge, resources and contacts. Blacks should organize with a mission statement and purpose that any community can utilize.
Ms. Mendenhall said that residents are ready for more involvement from spiritual entities. “It’s time for the mosque to come in here, we need the Nation,” she said, and thanked Min. Farrakhan and his Western Regional minister, Tony Muhammad, for reaching out to the forgotten and so-called downtrodden.