Scott Johnson (Oakland Tribune) | May 22, 2011
OAKLAND -- Karina Najeva arrived in the United States from El Salvador when she was 13 years old. Behind her were painful memories of war and poverty.
"I saw a lot of violence in Salvador," she said. "It was so common to see dead people every morning in the streets, people with no heads, no ears. I remember seeing dead people and not having any reaction to it."
At first, life in the U.S. was difficult, much more difficult than she had imagined. The schools weren't as good as she'd hoped. She wanted to learn English but the ESL programs were poor. Her parents cleaned houses, but money was tight. And there was still violence, the same kind of violence she had hoped to escape. Much of the fighting was between Latinos and African-Americans.
"There was so much violence between black and brown people, there were huge fights," she said. "That was shocking. Joining a gang was how I protected myself. I knew this was a group of people that would protect me. It was the only option I had."
But the brutality between black and brown that Najeva saw soon spilled over into wars between groups of Latinos, different shades of brown, she said. The gang violence and its effect on the larger Latino community is at issue this month as Alameda Superior Court Judge Robert Freedman deliberates on a proposed gang injunction targeting 40 people suspected of being members of the Norteño gang in Oakland.
Some activists say the injunction does nothing to address the root problems of economic hardship, isolation and inadequate social services afflicting many in the Latino community. Others say an injunction is a helpful tool against out-of-control violence.
One of its supporters is Oakland's police chief, Anthony Batts. At a packed City Council meeting Tuesday night, Batts reported that of the 36 murders so far in Oakland this year, 58 percent were gang related -- meaning either the suspect, victim or both were members of a gang.
A divided council voted 4-3 that night to continue to fund the controversial injunctions in North Oakland and in Fruitvale.
Incidents like the one Thursday night that occurred just outside the proposed Fruitvale zone do little to quell the controversy over the efficacy of the injunctions. Less than a block outside the area, a weapons sting by Oakland police led to the confiscation of two high-powered assault weapons and the arrest of Joseph Coombs, an alleged Norteño who is named in the proposed Fruitvale injunction.
Read more at: http://www.mercurynews.com/breaking-news/ci_18116181?nclick_check=1