ACTIVISM/POLITICS

Does MySpace Have Blood
On Its Hands?

The March 2, 2008 murder of 17-year old Los Angeles High School football star Jamiel Shaw sent shockwaves through the nation. Shaw was killed in cold blood, allegedly at the hands of Pedro Espinoza, an illegal immigrant and member of the infamous 18th Street Gang, the largest in LA County.

The crime has also caused a national debate regarding Special Order 40, a mandate implemented in 1979 by the Los Angeles City council and former Police Chief Daryl Gates. The order is meant to prevent LAPD officers from obtaining the immigration status from detained suspects. The mandate was passed in an effort to encourage residents who are in the country illegally to report crimes without intimidation or threat of deportation.

Critics of the measure point out that the mandate also prevents officers from obtaining immigration status from gang members, violent criminals and other felons. Special Order 40 is now back in the national spotlight, with right wing radio and television hosts, conservatives, and the family of Jamiel Shaw. The Shaw family is pushing for this order to be renamed “Jamiel’s Law.”

Part of this new law proposal would require law enforcement to ask gang members about their citizenship. Now, whether you support “Jamiels Law” or not-that’s not my issue. My focus for the last 15 years is continuing to try and save lives, and helping to end gang violence in our community.

Jamiel’s murder is and should be a national concern. I believe it could have been avoided. On several of his “myspace” pages, Jamiel proclaimed that he was a member of a gang called the Rollin 20’s NHB (Neighborhood Bloods). There are several pictures with Jamiel flashing gang signs, and threatening rival gangs. These rivals included the Crips and 18 th Street Gang.

There are some who are saying that pointing out these facts is a smear campaign, and those that search for the truth are killing Jamiel all over again. That is ridiculous. We’re not calling him a gang member. Jamiel called himself a gang member. In fact, in several of his pictures he is dressed in red, which is the color of the Blood gang.

I don’t believe Jamiel was a hard core gang member. He probably has no arrests, and may not even be in the gang database. But, he was net banging in cyberspace, and that can be just as deadly. Even falsely claiming gang affliations can get you killed.

Jamiel’s father, who by all accounts was a good dad who did all he could for his son, is wrong about some issues concerning his son’s tragic murder. This was not a hate crime. His rhetoric has made tensions between blacks and Latinos in Los Angeles even worse.

Jamiel was targeted because his alleged murderer thought he was a rival gang member, based on his signature clothing, consisting of a red belt, wrist bands and back pack. Mr. Shaw’s efforts to force Los Angeles prosecutor Michele Hanisee off the case, and complaining about her work are very troubling. Hanisee is a true professional, and one of the best prosecutors in her office.

To slander and taint her work is unconscionable. I believe she probably told Mr. Shaw an inconvenient truth about Jamiel’s secret life of cyberspace gang banging, and he couldn’t handle it. Now it appears that Mr. Shaw and his supporters are willing to go to any length to stop the truth from getting out.

Their efforts include the slandering of law officials and Mr. Shaw’s disgusting racial remarks about gang expert Alex Alonso on local radio and television. I for one don’t care what anyone says about me, and that includes members of the Shaw lynch mob. Their true target should be “myspace,” which allowed Jamiel and so many other youths to post messages promoting gangs, and threats of violence against others.

Project Islamic Hope plans on holding a press conference this week, calling “myspace” out for not removing these pages and canceling accounts that promote gang violence. Jamiel is gone, but maybe “Jamiel’s Law” should be an effort for the community to help monitor and hold sites like “myspace” accountable for spreading gang culture. I believe that Jamiel was a good son and outstanding athlete. But he also vigorously claimed membership in a deadly gang. The truth is never a smear campaign.

Najee Ali is Executive Director of Project Islamic H.O.P.E, a national civil rights organization that advocates for the human rights of oppressed people regardless of race, gender or religion. He was selected by Wave Newspapers and Our Weekly Newspaper as one of the 25 most influential black leaders in Los Angeles. More information is available at: www.islamichope.org.


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