California in the 80’s saw a sharp upswing in gang-related violence and death. In an attempt to crack down on this, the California State Legislature passed the Street Terrorism Enforcement and Protection Act (STEP Act), Statute 186.22, which legally defines “gang” in the state of California as “a formal or informal group of three or more, sharing a common identifying name, symbol or sign, and whose primary activity is crime.” The law declares that anyone found guilty under the previously stated definition would be sentenced to a prison sentence of 2 years or more (depending on the severity of any other additional charges).
What many don’t realize, however, is that this law has come to include anyone “who associate with known gang members, are seen in a gang neighborhood, or wear gang-related clothing” as eligible for being entered into the state’s database of gang members. And that people on this list can serve jail time for their affiliations. Now, nearly 30 years later, activists who have fallen victim to this database, are starting to fight back. For more on the story, turn to KPBS.