29
Jul
07

Lawsuits: Gang violence deterrents? Or Prejudice?

I just read a troubling article regarding cities using lawsuits to pro-actively disrupt gang activity:

Fort Worth and San Francisco are among the latest to file lawsuits against gang members, asking courts for injunctions barring them from hanging out together on street corners, in cars or anywhere else in certain areas.

The injunctions are aimed at disrupting gang activity before it can escalate. They also give police legal reasons to stop and question gang members, who often are found with drugs or weapons, authorities said. In some cases, they don’t allow gang members to even talk to people passing in cars or to carry spray paint.

“It is another tool,” said Kevin Rousseau, a Tarrant County assistant prosecutor in Fort Worth, which recently filed its first civil injunction against a gang. “This is more of a proactive approach.”

But critics say such lawsuits go too far, limiting otherwise lawful activities and unfairly targeting minority youth.

“If you’re barring people from talking in the streets, it’s difficult to tell if they’re gang members or if they’re people discussing issues,” said Peter Bibring, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California. “And it’s all the more troubling because it doesn’t seem to be effective.” – [Yahoo/AP]

I find this turn of events troubling for a number of reasons. First it is a very dangerous thing for anyone to implement any kind of enforcement that violates an individuals rights, especially when they have yet to actually commit a crime. And re-purposing laws so that actions that are legal for the average citizen become illegal for a specific demographic is simply unethical.

These cities have, in effect, sued a demographic, without regard for either the innocence or guilt of any of the individual members of that demographic. They have surreptitiously made gangs illegal. And in doing so, they done little more than legitimize prejudice.

The ability to stop, search and detain a person without probable cause, and for no other reason than their age, race, or the color of their clothes, is unconstitutional. Plain and simple. The increasing willingness of American police forces and lawmakers to violate an individuals rights in the name of keeping the peace is becoming a common and disturbing trend nowadays, especially in The Peoples Republic of Kalifornia. The end does not justify the means.

It is wrong to apply laws differently depending on such things as race, stereotypes, clothes, age, etc. Creating second class citizens does not solve problems, only exacerbate them. History has taught us that any demographic unfairly treated, will bear no concern for the fair treatment of others. It simply creates a vicious cycle. It may appear to be a a good solution in the short term. But unfairly treated people have long memories, and as a long term strategy, it is a no-win.

Be very careful America. I see a very ugly pattern developing. At the rate we are going, we will soon all be prisoners, held captive by the illusion of freedom…

Cities sue gangs in bid to stop violence – [Yahoo/AP]

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