Judge issues injunctions against gang members at Rondo Daysby Elizabeth Baier, Minnesota Public Radio
St. Paul, Minn. — The city of St. Paul has successfully banned more than a dozen reputed gang members from hanging out together at a popular street festival this weekend.
In separate hearings, Ramsey County Judge M. Michael Monahan issued two temporary injunctions Wednesday designed to prevent violence at the Rondo Day community festival.
The orders names nine members of the Selby Siders and nine members of the East Side Boys --- two rival gangs in St. Paul.
The injunctions prohibit the members, regardless of which gang they belong to, from associating with each other, confronting each other, using gang signs and wearing gang clothes during the Rondo Day community festival.
The injunction will run from 9 a.m. Saturday through 6 a.m. Sunday, in what officials are calling the safe zone between Summit and University avenues, and Rice Street and Hamline Ave.
St. Paul City Attorney John Choi said the injunction doesn't prevent the known gang members from attending the festival.
"This is a part of a proactive law enforcement strategy to get out in front of potential problems," Choi said. "Between the Selby Siders and the East Side Boys, there has been an alarming escalation of violence between these two gangs, and the police had reason to believe that this would spill over into our community."
Nine members of the rival gang East Side Boys are the subject of another lawsuit, and a judge will consider a separate injunction against them this afternoon.
Choi said if any of the identified gang members are seen violating the order, they could be arrested and charged with a misdemeanor.
This is the second time a judge has approved such a measure against a local gang. In May, a similar injunction was issued for the two-day Cinco de Mayo festival. It also created a so-called safe zone around the West St. Paul neighborhood against members of the Sureno 13.
Investigators suspect members of the Sureno 13 have committed brutal beatings and they have been implicated in a few unsolved murders.
Choi said there were no arrests during the Cinco de Mayo festivities, which he attributes to the judge's order.
"None of the individuals that were subject to the court's order were seen anywhere near Cinco de Mayo, and the individuals who are gang members but not subject to the order, were not wearing their gang clothing and were not associating with one another," Choi said. "So there was a very positive result from the use of the civil gang injunction."
Earlier this year, Chuck Samuelson with the Minnesota chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union said the Cinco the Mayo injunction could erode basic rights guaranteed by the Constitution.
"We have a number of concerns about this," Samuelson said. "There is a trend we find disturbing, to use civil law instead of criminal law to address fundamentally criminal issues."
Samuelson said the difference between civil and criminal law lies in the burden of proof.
If a person is charged with a criminal offense, law enforcement has to present evidence to show that the suspect is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
But according to Samuelson, to be found guilty of a civil offense, such as violating a court-ordered injunction, there only needs to be a preponderance of evidence.
"That means simply, if you have two witnesses that say, I'm not a gang member, and they have three witnesses who say you are a gang member, they have a preponderance of evidence," he said. "They do not need to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you are a gang member."
Samuelson said it's tempting to overlook potential civil rights abuses when the subjects of the abuse are people associated with street gangs.
"I would like people to focus on the principle and not on the actors," said Samuelson. "I'm not endorsing their lifestyle. I don't know their lifestyle, and I'm not even saying the police are totally wrong. I'm just saying, they haven't proved it in a criminal court."