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Carmen's Office Dupes LAist, KNX on "Gang Injunction"

MAILANDER’S MUSINGS - Pretty much a non-event over the weekend, but KNX [link] and LAist [link] went for it.
LA's City Attorney, Carmen Trutanich, released a presser--on the Saturday of Memorial Day weekend--announcing that the City Attorney's office had won a single challenge against a motion the ACLU filed on behalf of some taggers.

Well, that wasn't the way the Trutanich office portrayed it, of course. Carmen's flacks played up the words "gang injunction" and made this sound like an enormous win for the entire city.

Others in the City characterized the same action as a "publicity-craven, misdirected, wasteful, year-long legal harangue that has yet to bear fruit, all over a nearly busted-up tagging crew."

The critics have a point. Before Carmen became City Attorney, the LAPD used to simply arrest taggers belonging to this crew. [link]

But mere arrests, depending on police to do the jobs police like to do, weren’t enough for the vainglorious Nuch. So beginning a year ago, Carmen's office sought a voter-sexy gang injunction [link] against the scofflaw crew--a path that is still winding its way through the courts today.

The Deputy City Attorney involved in this case, Jim MacDougal, let out a hype-howler that KNX and LAist didn't call him on.

“And hopefully it has an effect on the million middle school kids with markers who are looking up to these taggers.”

I suppose this is to validate the City Attorney's effort: MacDougal wants you to think that of a city of four million, one million of us are still in middle school, and of the million of us in middle school, 100% of us are in awe of this ragtag tagging team that will likely disappear on its own before an injunction is enacted.

In fact, he's off only about by a factor of a hundred, maybe a thousand. The Los Angeles Unified School District has only 680,000 students total, of which less than 35% are in middle school.

Certainly not even every other one of these has a marker; certainly no more than one per classroom "looks up" to the fifty-odd MTA scofflaws. In fact, I would bet that only three in a hundred middle school students even know what the real MTA is, let alone the tag crew.

Oddly, Carmen's office has sought no such injunction against Jeffrey Deitsch, whose notorious Art in the Streets exhibit at MoCA/Geffen celebrates and even glorifies some of this very artwork, [link] even on a regional scale.

If the truth be told, MoCA and Deitsch, through offering a top institutional pedigree to street art, have likely had far more influence and reach on the folks in middle school than the ragtag Metro Transit Assassins have.

It's not only the ACLU and the local arts community. Some in City Hall think that this injunction is a profound waste of city time and taxpayer money, and simply another way Carmen Trutanich is seeking to promote his own career.

Since the ACLU stepped in to help the taggers out, stalling the injunction, it indeed has been all this, and even less.

(Joseph Mailander is a writer and an observer. He blogs at where this column was first posted.)

Tags: Carmen Trutanich, LAPD, City Attorney, LAUSD, graffiti, ACLU, taggers, KNX

Vol 9 Issue 44
Pub: June 3, 2011