Fresno Residents Stand For Justice

Mike Rhodes
December 3, 2007

(This story originally appeared on Indybay.org)

West Fresno residents and their allies held a press conference on Monday, November 26, 2007 to respond to elected city officials identifying black gang members as terrorists.

Residents of West Fresno don't like being called terrorists. At a press conference held earlier this week Rev. Floyd D. Harris said "no one has a right to call anyone a terrorist in this city." Harris was referring to statements made by local elected officials at a press conference held last August. At that event Fresno City Council member Jerry Duncan, stressing the urgency of a campaign against gangs in West Fresno, compared black gang members to terrorists. Duncan, speaking about those gang members, said "make no mistake about it, they are terrorists and they are as much of terrorists as those people in Iraq that are blowing up innocent people."

Fresno mayor Alan Autry said "the connection with the war on terror and the war against gangs at home is not a spin, it is a very real connection." A recent video details the case of Fresno City officials identifying African American gang members as terrorists.

This week's press conference was held in front of radio station KFCF 88.1 FM, where Duncan and Harris were scheduled to discuss the gang/terrorism issue on Valley Black Talk, a program aired on Monday evenings. Shortly before the show, Duncan sent an email to the programs producer saying he would not be able to appear on the show. Harris was disappointed and told me that he had been looking forward to the dialog with the city council member. The show did go on, but without Duncan. The program included many people calling in to discuss the provocative statements made by local elected officials.

At the press conference, Rev. Harris, who is the president of the National Network In Action a civil and human rights organization objected to city officials identifying black gangs as terrorists. In a prepared statement, he said "did the Fresno Police worsen the gang problem by using injunctions, anti-gang legislation and police crackdowns? A recent report, the Justice Department's Justice Policy Institute Report: Gang Wars: The Failure of Enforcement Tactics and the need for Effective Safety Strategies (PDF), called for social programs that promote jobs, education and healthy communities which have proven to be much more effective in curbing drug and gang activities."

City Council member Jerry Duncan is termed out and has announced he is running for mayor. Harris said "Prior to running for Mayor, Duncan has always told people who don't live in his area, that he not responsible for them and doesn't have to talk to them. Yet, he is attempting to promote his 'campaign' on the backs of poor people who do not have the same amount of resources as those who live in the north side. Instead he voted for more monies for the incarceration instead of placing greater emphasis on juvenile diversion and prevention programs such as mentoring for those that don't live in his district."



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I don’t care what color your skin is and I don’t care what country you are from and I don’t care what you claim as a religion. If YOU ARE a gang member you are A TERRIORTIST. Why? Because a gang member creates terror

Black youths are not terrorist - gang members are terrorists.

The solution that Rev. Harris is suggesting in the article is to reach out to his comunity with meaningful jobs and education programs rather than label and demonize young men. Disaffected behavior has a lot to do with self-esteem and life options, and Jerry Duncan&;s choosing to stigmatize a particular segment of his city does nothing to abate gang violence, rather its divisive politics at its worst -- I mean, shouldn&;t the public expect positive action from its elected officials, rather than negative rhetoric? Further, the terms "gang member" and "terrorist" are too loosely used to refer to unemployed black and brown youth hanging out together with no criminal intent. In America unless you are convicted of a crime you are presumed innocent. The label "terrorist" was used irresponsibly by Duncan to stigmatize a population rather than get to practical solutions. Reminds me of McCarthyism, frankly,.

This week&;s press conference was held in front of radio station KFCF 88.1 FM, where Duncan and Harris were scheduled to discuss the gang/terrorism issue on Valley Black Talk, a program aired on Monday evenings. Shortly before the show, Duncan sent an email to the programs producer saying he would not be able to appear on the show.<br />
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