[caption id="attachment_444" align="alignleft" width="360" caption="Alex Sanchez at the March 2009 UCLA forum, "Global Perspectives on Youth & Violence.""][/caption] The FBI and federal prosecutors have built up a racketeering case, including murder, against 24 alleged "shot callers," members and associates of the Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13). For years, the authorities have demonized this gang, which as I've written before, is one of our own making. In the 1980s, civil wars that we as a government took part in helped send a fifth of El Salvador's population, and also from Guatemala and Honduras, as refugees to Los Angeles and other major cities (tens of thousands of people were killed). In LA, some of the children of these refugees joined existing and older Chicano gangs--like 18th Street--or created their own, such as MS-13. Unfortunately, soon after the 1992 LA Rebellion immigration authorities created a National Gang Task Force targeting "immigrant" gangs for deportation. Tens of thousands of 18th Street and MS-13 members were repatriated to El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and parts of Mexico (along with other LA-based gangs). By 1996 immigration law changed to facilitate the deportation of undocumented convicted felons and those in jails for more than a year, resulting in some 700,000 people repatriated--enough to change most cultures. The growth of MS-13 and 18th Street in Central America is a direct result of these misguided and draconian policies. We not only deported young people often raised in our prisons and juvenile facilities, but exported the LA-based gang culture as well. Many abandoned children and youth in Central America from war and poverty -have now become part of MS-13 or 18th Street. Instead of providing jobs, schooling, material and spiritual resources to this issue, these gangs faced Mano Dura (Firm Hand) policies, imprisonment, death squads, "social cleansing" policies, and more poverty. Alex Sanchez was a member of MS-13 until he turned his life around and became a leader in urban peace and gang prevention/intervention. Despite facing deportation, and being targeted by officers in the infamous LAPD Ramparts Gang Unit, Alex was given amnesty and allowed to continue his work to help other youth turn their lives around. For the past eleven years Alex helped make Homies Unidos into a viable gang prevention/intervention model--with tattoo removal, counseling, jobs, life skills training, and more. Alex has spoken out against the ongoing imprisonment and throwing away of our young people. And he has spoken out against the demonization and targeting of so-called immigrant gangs such as MS-13. Unfortunately, Alex now faces life sentences in the recent RICO Act indictments against MS-13--he was named and arrested as one of the 24 alleged conspirators. We in the community, especially those who know Alex's tireless efforts to help troubled youth in and out of gangs, are appalled at this latest attempt to silence Alex and keep him imprisoned and away from the vital work he started at Homies Unidos. We know him as a genuine leader, decent father, husband, brother, and son. Alex represents the best of our community and we can't let this injustice stand.. I invite anyone who can to help support Alex Sanchez' Freedom by joining us tomorrow, June 30, Tuesday, at 1 PM for a silent rally outside the US District Court, 312 North Spring Street in downtown LA. Then at 2 PM, we plan to quietly fill the courtroom with his supporters on the 8th FLoor, Court D, where a bail hearing will be held. No cameras, cell phones, IPods, laptops will be allowed (IDs must be provided). Please help bring fairness and justice for Alex Sanchez. I'll try to keep everyone updated on his case and our efforts on his behalf. c/s [ UPDATES: On Wed., July 1, 2009, the Los Angeles Time published an article titled: "Nationally Known Anti-Gang Leader Accused in Killing Won't Get Bail." Also - videos from the June 30 Press Conference following the denial of bail for Alex Sanchez can be viewed at the "We Are Alex Sanchez" channel on YouTube. Tom Hayden spoke at the press conference, saying: "The bad news is our brother Alex is in the pen for some while, the good news is there will be an appeal, and in my expert judgement I have never seen a weaker case brought by the Los Angeles Police Department than this one." On March 12, 2009, Alex Sanchez addressed a UCLA forum on "Global Perspectives on Youth & Violence." You can view his opening address on YouTube, as well as watch videos from the entire forum. ]
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