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Santa Clarita / Antelope Valley : Teens in Alleged Gang Attire Are Denied Admission to Fair

September 02, 1993|SHARON MOESER | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

LANCASTER — As many as 20 teens have been denied admission to the Antelope Valley Fair by Sheriff's Department officers who say the juveniles are "obvious street gang members"--part of a policy that the American Civil Liberties Union says violates the Constitution.

In addition to the 15 to 20 juveniles who have been kept out of the fairgrounds, Los Angeles County Sheriff's Sgt. David Webster said that as many as 50 gang members have been required to leave the fair for fighting or harassing other people. Webster supervises the sheriff's deputies who work at the fair during its 11-day run. The fair continues through Monday.

Signs posted at the fair entrance state, "Anyone in street gang attire, engaged in gang activity, or disruptive behavior will be removed from the fairgrounds."

Teen-agers being denied admission, Webster said, are being identified as gang members by the Sheriff's Department gang detail-officers familiar with local gangs.

Although the ACLU may feel the policy is unacceptable, the overwhelming majority of fair patrons are pleased with it, a fair spokeswoman said.

ACLU staff attorney Mark Silverstein said the anti-gang policy represents a violation of people's civil rights and also sends the wrong message to youth, many of whom dress in so-called gang attire because it is fashionable.

"It violates a person's rights, it violates the Constitution and it's a bad idea (because) it's divisive," he said. "It's telling young people we'll treat you on the basis of generalization."

"If they are a gang member coming in to start trouble, we don't want them in," Webster said, adding, "we don't want to infringe on anybody's rights. . . . We're trying to make everybody happy."

In prior years there have been problems with gang members at the fair, Webster said, noting that there has for years been an informal policy about gang attire. This year the policy was spelled out. Antelope Valley fair officials have posted the policy at all fair entrance gates.

"We're trying to prevent a potentially explosive situation," he said. "We don't want to see anybody get hurt."

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