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Advocacy Group Organizes Conference To Fight California’s Gang Conspiracy Laws

Community organizer Aaron Harvey stands outside the office of Pillars of the ...

Photo by Matthew Bowler

Above: Community organizer Aaron Harvey stands outside the office of Pillars of the Community, July 26, 2017.

A law has long been on the books in California that says people who associate with known gang members, are seen in a gang neighborhood, or wear gang-related clothing can be listed in the state's gang database.

A local group of activists is fighting those gang designations. Organizers from the advocacy group Pillars of the Community have enlisted lawyers to help documented gang members appeal their designations, and are planning a conference this weekend to raise awareness about the law.

RELATED: San Diego Nonprofit Prepares To Fight For People Listed In Gang Database

The Document Me conference on Saturday is free and open to everyone, and will be held at the Educational Culture Complex in the Mount Hope neighborhood of Southeast San Diego.

It will feature keynote speakers Jasiri X, a rapper and activist, and Patrick Camangian, a professor at the University of San Francisco.

Two of the organizers know California's gang documentation laws well. Brandon "Tiny Doo" Duncan and Aaron Harvey spent seven months in jail for allegedly associating with gang members accused in a shooting, until a judge dismissed the charges against them.

"What I want out of it is to educate people around our community who don't understand what gang documentation is," Duncan said. "They don't understand how gang documentation affects not only their lives but the lives of their children's children."

Harvey said the experience of being put in jail forced him to get involved.

RELATED: New Voices: A Younger Generation’s Urgent Quest For Change In Southeast San Diego

"It kind of put us in a position where we didn't really have much of a choice," he said. "Even though we're out here fighting for our community and fighting for other communities, I'm also fighting for my life as well."

He hopes the conference will also help community members come together.

"We're going to be talking about black, brown and Asian unity, why it's needed, how we go about doing it, and also real consequences of these labels that society gives people of color, criminal, thug, gang member, and things like that," he said.

Breakout sessions at the conference include a discussion of a new law written by Assemblywoman Shirley Weber, D-San Diego, that goes into effect on Jan. 1, 2018 that gives people in the database a right to appeal their gang designations.

"When impacted communities are a part of the policy discussions the result is more fair and effective laws," the session's description reads. "This panel will talk about how the lived experiences of those documented as gang members contributed to the creation of a new piece of legislation, and how that legislation helps people today."

Organizers from the advocacy group Pillars of the Community have enlisted lawyers to help documented gang members appeal their designations, and are planning a conference this weekend to raise awareness about the law.

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