Push for Echo Park gang injunction spurs civil rights outcry

Written by

Don’t expect consensus among neighborhood leaders and residents on whether Echo Park needs a gang injunction, as evidenced by our readers’ comments this week. But the debate is over at L.A. City Hall.

Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feuer has finished studying the details of the proposed injunction he inherited from his predecessor when he took office in July. His spokesman said Friday that Feuer has made key changes, adding a five-year sunset provision. That means the conditions applied to each alleged gang member named in the injunction would expire after five years.  Feuer will seek the amended injunction in court. There is a hearing scheduled for August 21.

The injunction covers nearly four miles of Echo Park and targets suspected members of six rival gangs. Those named would be barred from congregating with one another and would face tough penalties for graffiti vandalism, flashing gang signs, and other activities.

City Councilman Mitch O’Farrell represents parts of Echo Park and supports the gang injunction. “We’re taking great care in the way this is done,” O’Farrell said in an interview Friday. He said the city attorney’s office is carefully crafting an “exit ramp” to ensure that residents would not be unfairly named in the injunction.

This week, several KCRW listeners voiced their opposition to the injunction on the Which Way LA? website.

One commenter under the name CT 90026 said:

A gang injunction is an EXTREME measure to take, and should only be appropriate in EXTREME situations. That is not what exists there. I am a resident there. Are there taggings and territory beefs? Yes. Does it sometimes lead to violence? Yes. But if you read the complaint filed for the injunction, they talk about neighborhoods being held hostage by gangs, unable to live their lives or go outside for fear of being caught in near-constant violence. Nobody can say with a straight face that this describes Echo Park.

Another commenter going by Jamie wrote:

The gang injunction set forth in Echo Park are during an all time low of gang violence. Older residents who have been apart of Echo Park community for over 15 years are standing up and saying no to the injunction. Will the Neighborhood Councils or the New City Attorney hear what the neighborhood people have to say or will it be business as usual.

Many other comments equated tougher policing with racial profiling and said the crackdown was more about gentrification than battling crime.

Not all the comments opposed the injunction. Someone going by J 90026 wrote:

I reject the notion that tagging should be classed as a property crime of concern to gentrifying yuppies. We are concerned with tagging specifically as it relates to territorial conflict and violence. Property value is not our concern, and in fact aesthetically, spray paint is quite comfortable to me, living in urban environments for decades. When it leads to shootings on my block, which it has in Echo Park, it is a problem.

“I think it’s terrific there’s so much dialogue, O’Farrell told KCRW. But he said he disagreed with the sentiment expressed in many comments that the injunction was a tool to force anyone out of the neighborhood. “It’s related to crime. I don’t think it’s related to gentrification,” he said.