Revolution #273, June 24, 2012
Aurora, Illinois, Lawsuit Calls for Outlawing Freedom of Association
On May 24, the City of Aurora filed a civil suit against 35 men, all Latino, who it alleges are gang members. The suit calls on a judge to enter an injunction that would prohibit them from "standing, sitting, walking, driving, meeting or appearing anywhere in public view with any other gang member," owning weapons, drawing gang graffiti, using gang slogans or using gang nicknames. If the injunction is granted, it will enable police to search them and their cars without probable cause, almost guaranteeing constant harassment.
At a press conference, Kane County State's Attorney Joe McMahon claimed that all the men named in the suit have criminal records or are self-admitted gang members. No evidence that this is true has been submitted, but the state is already acting as if the men are guilty until proven innocent just because some have previously served time in prison. The state is already trying them in the press, labeling them "the worst of the worst," and citing violations from 25 years ago! They released old prison and booking photos which were plastered all over the local Spanish language newspaper and this immediately resulted in two of the men getting fired from their jobs.
The majority of those targeted are now in their 30s, many haven't had any encounters with the police in years. Many are trying to do the impossible: support themselves and their families despite having been put into what Michelle Alexander in The New Jim Crow calls a "pariah caste," where their former felon status often bars them from housing, education, public benefits, or employment. These men from the east side of Aurora are the sons of Mexican immigrants; the ones written off by society when they were kids; the ones disrespected, tracked, and humiliated at their schools; the ones hounded by police; some pulled into "the life" in the face of joblessness and despair, some ending up in prison, trapped in a "cradle-to-prison pipeline".
This civil suit denies basic constitutional rights of freedom of speech and assembly to a whole group of people on the basis of the state's mere assertion that they are in a gang. It must be said that first, it is not illegal to be in a gang, and second, that the assertion of gang membership because someone has been in prison or because the police say he is in a gang does not rise to the legal definition of proof. It is well known that "gang validation" in many state and federal prisons is based on tattoos, what an individual reads, who they talk with, and often "validations" are purely arbitrary and are used to target jailhouse lawyers or others deemed to be "troublemakers." Injunctions like the one being sought in Aurora are an extension of the forced "gang validation" of the prison into civil society. It appears that the same kind of "proof," i.e. "you are a gang member because we say you are a gang member" is being applied in this lawsuit to these men in the community. In a similar lawsuit in 2010 against 81 men in the neighboring city of Elgin, some of the defendants, men who were no longer in a gang and who had become religious proselytizers, were prevented from preaching to groups because of the ban in the lawsuit on congregating.
One defendant reflected: "Yes, there was a time in my life where I was caught up in the hustle and flow mentality of trying to survive on the streets. While in prison under some of the harshest and most brutal conditions, I became revolutionary minded through a lot of progressive and revolutionary literature."
But this lawsuit is saying, no matter what a person is doing now, after being in prison, he may be doing no harm to anyone, he may be working for the good of humanity, it doesn't matter, he is being labeled a criminal for his associations or his past and can be hounded and arrested at any time on that basis. In other words, there are special categories of people the government decides are "gangs" or "terrorists" who have no rights.
All this is coming from a system rooted in the savage oppression of people throughout the U.S. and across the globe, a system that presents millions of youth with no good choices and has spawned systematic campaigns of repression that target Black and Latino people. These injunctions are yet another element of the "slow genocide" that has targeted millions of basic people across the country, most of whom are Black and Latino.
The other elements of the mass incarceration and criminalization that are part of the slow genocide that Carl Dix and others have described include:
- Nearly 2.4 million people warehoused in prisons and jails in the U.S.; millions more on probation or parole; millions of families and entire communities subjected to the devastating impact of having loved ones locked away. Most prisoners today are Black and Latino despite the much smaller percentages of their respective population levels.
- Tens of thousands confined under the harshest conditions, which include solitary confinement that constitutes torture.
- This process, dubbed the "cradle-to-prison pipeline," has tracked and sorted millions of youth, especially Black and Latino youth, to have no future under this system but jail or an early grave.
- Mass incarceration that has produced a new racial caste system, which has not only locked up an unprecedented number of minority people but upon release, subjects an individual to "a cruel new phase of stigmatization and control. Myriad laws, rules, and regulations discriminate against ex-offenders and effectively prevent their meaningful reintegration into the mainstream economy and society." (from The New Jim Crow)
Resisting mass incarceration is a critical part of building the movement for revolution. The first court date for the Aurora lawsuit is July 10. This injunction must be stopped. Protest on the courthouse steps July 10 at 9:00 am and fill the courtroom for the 9:30 hearing: Kane County Courthouse, Courtroom #110, 100 S. 3rd Street, Geneva, Illinois.
Mass incarceration + Silence = Genocide
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