St. Paul seeks injunction against gang

The move would bar members from attending Cinco de Mayo festivities in St. Paul.

Under a new injunction sought by the city of St. Paul , local members of the Sureño 13 gang would be barred from attending the upcoming Cinco de Mayo festival May 1 and 2. Standing together with 16 other people who worked to put the injunction into motion during a recent news conference, Mayor Chris Coleman issued a warning to members of the Sureño 13 and other gangs within the city. âÄúWe are here to speak with one voice, loud and clear âÄî gangs are not welcome in St. Paul,âÄù he said. The injunction, which will go before a Ramsey County judge on April 24, is the first of its kind for the state. Listed in the official filings, 10 people are identified as being members of the gang, which is made up of both native-born and Mexican-Americans. According to St. Paul Attorney John Choi , nine of the 10 people identified have been served, while one is still being sought after by police. Should the injunction be approved by the judge, anyone participating in gang-related activity either between or with the 10 identified as gang members will be in violation of the injunction. Gang members will be restricted from gathering in St. PaulâÄôs West Side and nearby neighborhoods. Gang-related activity includes wearing gang colors, showing gang signs, or committing crimes. While the city is currently singling out Cinco de Mayo and the Sureño 13, St. Paul police Chief John Harrington called the injunction a preemptive strike. Harrington said the move was not about Cinco de Mayo in particular, and that it could have applied to any festival, adding that in past years the Cinco de Mayo celebration has been âÄúincredibly safe.âÄù Harrington said he sees the injunction as a way to do a blanket ban on the whole group for an entire segment of the community instead of individual incidents. Choi said the Sureño 13 have been targeted as they are seen as being particularly problematic. A relatively new gang to the area, Choi said the group has grown faster than any other gang and have committed numerous acts which are seen as a public nuisance, ranging from graffiti to shootings. Choi cited 13 specific acts committed by the gang over the past 12 months, including a 14-year-old girl who was shot in the back on July 14, 2008. The girlâÄôs injuries were not life threatening. When creating the injunction, officials looked to California and Texas as places where similar efforts have been implemented. Rep. John Lesch, DFL-St. Paul, was a chief proponent of the measure, which city officials hope will expand to cover more events, thus creating a safer city. LeschâÄôs anti-gang legislation was passed in the House by a vote of 126 to 4. It received unanimous approval in the Senate allowing for St. Paul to move forward with its injunction. Now, as St. Paul officials prepare to bring their case before a judge, University Chicano Studies Department Chair Eden Torres said she sees some problems with this type of legal action. âÄúI donâÄôt think an injunction will solve these kinds of problems,âÄù Torres said, adding that problems can come up at any event such as the State and Renaissance fairs. âÄúAnytime you have any kind of celebration with alcohol and huge numbers of people you are going to have problems. The perception that it is strictly a gang problem comes from outside the community,âÄù Torres said. âÄúA lot of things get blamed on gangs that may not even be related to that gang. âÄúThis is a target they are aware of so this is who they think they can point to.âÄù She explained that when crime happens at group events, people look to the city and question why they didnâÄôt do anything. By filing this injunction against the Sureño 13, Torres said the city will be able to tell the public they did their part even though a crime still occurred. Although Choi was not able to offer more reason into the singling out of the Sureño 13 beside its high crime activity, St. Paul officials are positive the injunction will pass, giving the city another âÄútoolâÄù for lessening crime and protecting citizens.