Tennessee is home to many Black and Latino gangs. In 2009, the Tennessee state legislature included them in the state’s nuisance statute. This means that ordinances can impose injunctions on sets that prohibit members from “standing, walking, driving or appearing together in the view of the public, with an exception for attending school or a place of worship.” Violators can be punished with 30 days in jail and/or a maximum fine of $50. The first of these injunctions was imposed on the Riverside Rollin 90’s in 2013.
Last month, two men–Earnest Williams and Joe McKnight–brought a case forward challenging the constitutionality of a gang injunction imposed on the Dixie Homes Murda Gang (also known as the 47 Neighborhood Crips) and FAM Mob. Under this order, members are prohibited from “associating with each other in court-ordered safety zones,” according to Commercial Appeal. On Tuesday, Shelby County Environmental Court Judge Larry Potter rejected the claims that the order violates the gang members’ constitutional rights.
Assistant Public Defender Barbara Sidelnik argued on behalf of Williams that the injunction is unconstitutional, overly broad and vague. She said the order involves conduct protected by the Constitution and “creates a direct and substantial burden on intimate associations, especially as applied to (Williams), whose brother is also enjoined under the same order.”
According to an affidavit, detectives observed Williams May 6, 2015, standing on a front porch in the 800 block of Faxon Avenue with three other men in violation of the Dixie Homes Murda Gang/47 Neighborhood Crips injunction. The injunction covers an area bounded by Jackson to the north, Thomas to the west, Poplar to the south and Interstate 40/240 to the east.
McKnight’s case stems from safety zones set up December 2014 at the Frayser apartment complexes of Ridgecrest and Greenbriar where members of the FAM Mob cannot associate in public. McKnight became subject to the injunction, wrote attorney Joseph Crone.
Assistant District Attorney Colin Campbell argued, “All of these actions are an effort to support the citizens by reclaiming their community and having the ability to fully enjoy and use the land, parks and community around them.”
Judge Potter concurred saying, “The law serves the legitimate government purpose of protecting neighbors from organized criminal activity in a limited geographical area, not enhanced punishment by association.” He added, “The order is narrowly tailored to make criminal activity more difficult and neighbors safer. The defendants may still have a hearing on whether or not they should be subject to the order.”