The hate crime that killed Cheryl Green may be part of a larger campaign, orchestrated out of the prisons
The spot where Cheryl Green was gunned down by the 204th St. Gang
Like other African-American residents of this 12-block working-class enclave, Charlene Lovett came to the South L.A. neighborhood of Harbor Gateway thinking she was giving her kids a better life. Shortly after she settled in, her neighbors came over to warn her about a decade of violence by Latino gangs against neighborhood blacks. Lovett recalls, "They said don't walk north to 204th Street."
That was six years ago. Today, one wall in Lovett's tidy ground floor apartment is dedicated with photos, letters, and posters to her 14-year-old daughter Cheryl Green, who was brutally gunned down in December by the 204th Street Gang, the 100-member Latino street gang that has been terrorizing the black community there. "I'm not part of a gang. My daughter was not part of a gang," Lovett stresses. "My daughter was killed because of the color of her skin."
This is not a gang war. There is no black gang that encroaches on the 204's turf. The hate is so prevalent and obvious that activists and city officials alike can no longer avoid calling it by the name being used by everyone from prosecutors to opinion writers in the L.A. Times: ethnic cleansing. "I'm not saying it's a problem with Latinos generally," Lovett clarifies. "I wouldn't dare say that. All I'm saying is that the gangs here have let it be known that they hate black people.
"They have written it on the walls, graffiti-ed the ground, and put it online, on the web."
The evidence is hard to miss: the N-word is graffitied everywhere; 206th Street has been declared a line blacks cannot cross; there is a big market on 204th Street in which blacks are forbidden to shop. Like other Latino gang members, one of the suspects charged in this murder had a MySpace web page riddled with anti-black rhetoric.
And now, more. Seated at her dining table and joined by Los Angeles Humanity Advocacy Group's Melvin Snell and Project Islamic Hope's Najee Ali, Lovett listens, hands pressed against her mouth, as Snell reads a letter she recently received from the previous occupant of her apartment. And though it came just a few days ago, "Words of encouragement from one black mother to another," is dated December 13, 2006. The sender, Snell calls her "Blank" � was working in the Emergency Room in Harbor UCLA hospital the night Cheryl and her friends were rushed in. She helped get the victims out of the car. "I watched them work on your baby," she says.
"I know you don't remember me, but my name is �Blank.� I'm the lady who used to live in your apartment. When I moved out, you moved in. I just wanted to tell you how sorry I am for not warning you about the 204s. You see I had a bad experience with them. They shot my daughter's boyfriend's car up one night as they were leaving to go to the movies. God spared my daughter, for some reason. I don't know. God needed Cheryl up in heaven."
Across the street, newly constructed Spanish-style town homes are riddled with bullet holes and anti-black graffiti. Photographer Ted Soqui was taking pictures when he caught up with the developer, a Chinese immigrant, who said he has to patch broken windows and bullet holes and clean up the 204s racial slogans once a week. It�s sad, he said. He was trying to build something that would make the neighborhood nicer.
Ernesto Alcarez, 20, was arrested Dec. 21 in connection with Green�s murder, and on Jan. 4 police had Jonathan Fajardo, 18, the alleged triggerman, in custody. Both are charged with special circumstances murder, attempted murder, ? and hate crimes. They can face the death penalty if convicted.
On Jan. 15, Ali announced that he had negotiated a peace treaty with the 204s that would be signed at 10 a.m. the following Thursday outside the Del Amo market where blacks are forbidden to shop. One of the reasons, he said, was fear of more violence by black gangs living outside the Harbor Gateway area who might come seeking retaliation. Snell, National Action Network President Rev. K.W. Tullos, members of Ali�s Latino and African American Leadership Alliance, and members of the 204th Street Gang would all be present.
That event was co-opted by Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who scheduled a press conference on the subject at exactly the same time, right nearby. At 10 a.m. that Thursday, Villaraigosa stood outside the Del Amo Market with LAPD Chief William Bratton and FBI Director Robert Muller and announced that they were putting the 204�s on gang injunctions and taking other measures citywide. �We are coming with everything we have � and we are putting you out of business,� the mayor said.
As gang violence increased 40 percent in 2006, community leaders prevailed on the mayor and law enforcement to take a harder look at the increase in hate crimes � not only in Harbor Gateway, but also in Long Beach, where a crowd of blacks on Halloween attacked three white teenage girls. In Highland Park, where prosecutors who obtained hate-crime convictions against four members of the Latino gang, the Avenues, uncovered the gang�s chilling �racial cleansing plot� against young African Americans and their Latino supporters.
Criminal attorney Anthony Willoughby has defended gang members as well as members of the Mexican Mafia, the prison gang known by the FBI to control some aspects of the drug trade. Unlike street gangs, this Mafia is highly organized; Latino gangs pay them a tax. As long as recalcitrant gang members don�t end up in prison, Willoughby explains, they are safe. However, since most gangbangers will do at least one prison stint, a Latino gang member who refuses to carry out their agenda stands a good chance of being killed.
To Willoughby this is the �the 400-pound gorilla in the room.� No one is talking about it. "Every race riot in L.A. is precipitated and directed by the Mexican Mafia," he says.
�[Villaraigosa and others are] missing the boat,� he adds. �The issue is that the Mexican Mafia has issued a green light for these killings. Unless you deal with the source, the Mexican Mafia, you�re only dealing with the symptoms. The light must go red.�
When asked by Newsweek reporter Andrew Murr last week if prison gang violence was spilling onto the streets, Bratton answered, �There were stories a couple of years back about the Mexican Mafia targeting blacks, but we could not document it anywhere.�
�We�assumed that Muller the head of the FBI would have at least briefed�Bratton before they met, or�e-mailed him a copy of the report on the FBI website detailing the Mexican Mafia�s stated desire to kill all blacks,� Ali says.
Five days after the mayor's press conference, there's new graffiti on 205 St. It says "205s Fuck the Injunctions."
"It wasn't there this morning," says William, a black man who doesn't want to give us his last name. "They used to write 204s." When William first moved here, the 204s visited and said he wasn't allowed to go to the market.
On the other side of 205th Street and Harvard, a Latino man holding his baby daughter stops to talk to us. He points west, down the block. That's where they deal the drugs, he says. "By the trucks. You see? They kill many children there."
Early in the morning on January 21, a black man on his way to pick up his kids was shot on 225 St. Law enforcement believes it was the work of a rival Latino gang, the East Torrance gang that Ali says has threatened to kill him if he doesn't stop coming around.
"I've been coming over here since about 1995 and this has always been about racial tension. There is no other gang here," says a 30-year-old African American who wished to go unnamed.
"If the white population was acting like the Latino population, we'd have the Department of Justice and everyone else in here," Willoughby says. "Because the actions that are occurring right now are worse than the Ku Klux Klan."