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Promoting a New Vision of Public Safety, Association & Belonging


Chesa Boudin 

District A​ttorney of San Francisco

A Rhodes Scholar and graduate of Yale Law School, Chesa Boudin was elected to District Attorney in November 2019 on a progressive platform centered on ending mass incarceration, protecting crime survivors, and addressing the root causes of crime.

DA Boudin personally understands the impact of incarceration, as both of his parents were incarcerated throughout his childhood, and his father remains in prison.  As such, DA Boudin’s renowned policies include eliminating bail; ending racist sentencing enhancements; discouraging the police from using racist, pretextual stops; allowing victims of police violence to access victims’ compensation; providing diversion opportunities for parents in the justice system; and ensuring that cases relying solely on the word of officers with documented serious misconduct are not prosecuted.

Senator Sydney Kamlager

California State Senator, District 30

Elected to the California State Senate in 2020, Senator Sydney Kamlager represents District 30 which includes Culver City, Ladera Heights, and Westmont and the Crenshaw, Downtown, and Florence neighborhoods of Los Angeles. 

In 2013, Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas appointed Sydney to the Los Angeles County Commission on Children and Families. Sydney was elected in 2015 to the Los Angeles Community College Board, where she fought to make higher education and career training affordable and accessible to everyone, with special focus on underserved communities and students who were previously in the foster care system or incarcerated. Sydney successfully ran for State Assembly in 2018. Senator Kamlager actively promotes police reforms and supports legislation addressing gang criminalization.

Antonio "King Tone" Fernandez

CEO of Grow Up Grow Out, LLC

Antonio Fernandez, also known as King Tone, is the former head of the Latin Kings (the largest Hispanic street gang in the US). In 1999, Fernandez was sentenced to 12 to 15 years for conspiring to sell narcotics and found solace in a gang. 

He saw something in the criminal organization that others didn't - a place that offered the structure and love that he needed to beat addiction. He united the divided sects of the gang and presented his ideas at local meetings, building the new principles of the Latin Kings from the ground up. He is the main figure in the HBO documentary, Latin Kings: A Street Gang story, which was released in 2007. Upon his release, Fernandez has shared his insights as a former gang leader and political activist, and how that relates to the "legitimate world".


As a leader in the fight against over-policing through the misuse of gang laws, Pillars of the Community convened the Document Me! conference in the summer of 2017 which addressed the abusive nature of gang documentation laws and the harms they have caused the community.

The Decriminalizing Neighborhoods Conference 2021 is proud to include Document This!, a conference with a conference, that will follow up on the 2017 conference. In the Document This! track, Pillars of the Community continues to expose the trauma and injustice caused by gang documentation laws by bringing forward impacted individuals to discuss issues relating to gangs and gang laws through their own eyes and document themselves as a form of empowerment. 


Welcome / Plenary Keynote: San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin

8:30 - 9:50am Friday, 23rd July, 2021

This first portion of the conference will provide an introduction to the events to come.

- Genevieve Jones-Wright, Co-Founder and Executive Director Community Advocates for Just and Moral Governance

- Andrea Renee St. Julian, Co-Founder, Community Advocates for Just and Moral Governance

- Sean Garcia-Leys, Peace and Justice Law Center

Chesa Boudin was elected as District Attorney of San Francisco in November 2019 on a progressive platform centered on ending mass incarceration, protecting crime survivors, and addressing the root causes of crime.

Alternatives to Gang Suppression Policing

10:00 - 11:15am Friday, 23rd July, 2021

All across the US, there are a growing number of examples of community-based strategies for reducing violence without relying on police. We will discuss models such as credible messengers, social inclusion strategies, and wraparound services for young people and their families.

- David Brotherton, John Jay College of Criminal Justice

-Taylonn Murphy, Sr., Tashana Chicken Murphy Foundation

-Alex S. Vitale, Policing and Social Justice Project, Brooklyn College

Crimmigration and Gangs (MCLE)

10:00 - 11:15am Friday, 23rd July, 2021

This workshop will discuss findings from a national survey of legal practitioners concerning the increased use of gang allegations against young immigrants as a means of driving up deportation numbers. We will also explore recommended best practices for attorneys to defend against unfounded gang allegations and to mitigate the impact of prior gang involvement. The workshop will include three presentations on the effects of gang labeling on undocumented people. The first presentation will discuss the Erase the Database campaign in Chicago and why it is an important campaign for undocumented immigrants. Second will be a presentation on the findings of the Deportation by Any Means Necessary report on gang allegations in immigration proceedings, including an update on those findings. And finally, there will be a presentation on emerging government practices in labeling immigrants as gang members.

- Xanat Sobrevilla, Organized Communities Against Deportation Chicago

- Laila Hlass, Tulane Law School

- Julie Mao, Just Futures Law

Document This! The Attack on Black and Brown Youth: Unacknowledged Consequences of Gang Suppression

10:00 - 11:15am Friday, 23rd July, 2021

The people most impacted by laws are often ignored and dismissed. This presentation will walk individuals through our life stories and how the system targeted us from a young age in the public educational system. From there, we will discuss what tools the system used to further criminalize us and group us into criminal organizations, and how it affected our families, communities, and quality of life. We will ask the community to support efforts in AB 333 and anti-gang laws that dehumanize and destroy camaraderie between cities, races, and neighborhoods.

- Lucero Herrera –Self Determination Coordinator, Young Women Freedom Center

- Alex Diaz – Policy Fellow, Communities United for Restorative Youth Justice (CURYJ)

Law Enforcement's Misrepresentation of Gangs

11:30am - 12:45pm Friday, 23rd July, 2021

This session will focus on law enforcement gang experts' misrepresentations regarding gangs. Jose Valle will present on law enforcement's claim that the huelga bird, the symbol associated with Cesar Chavez and the United Farm Workers, is often used as a gang symbol.

- Jose Valle, Silicon Valley De-Bug

“Progressive” Prosecutors and Gang Allegations: The Death of Decarceration?

11:30am - 12:45pm Friday, 23rd July, 2021

The "progressive" prosecutor has emerged as an unlikely champion of decarceration with a commitment to alternatives to incarceration and racial justice. But what happens when the "progressive" prosecutor encounters the gang allegation? This Topic Session will examine the over-prosecution, failure of diversion, and denial of due process that "progressive" prosecutors impose based on gang allegations. The panel also explores the resistance a decarceral prosecutor faces in fighting gang allegations.

-Babe Howell, CUNY School of Law

-Fareed Hayat, CUNY School of Law

-MK Kaishian, Brooklyn Defender

-Meredith Manchester, Defender Association of Philadelphia

Document This! Gangs of LA and Preparing the World for the War on Drugs

11:30am - 12:45pm Friday, 23rd July, 2021

This panel will explore the history of gangs In Los Angeles and its surrounding cities. We will discuss the intersection between streets gangs law and the war on drugs. Also, we will provide personal experience with gangs growing up in Los Angeles during the war drugs and how we have been affected by law enforcement.

- Ingrid Archie, MID LLC.

Violence Intervention and Community Based Public Safety

1:00 - 2:15pm Friday, 23rd July, 2021

Over the last decade, with the rise of calls to defund police, community and legislators alike have been looking for viable ways to invest in public safety other than funding law enforcement. Violence Intervention is an effective alternative. This panel will bring together violence intervention practitioners to discuss their insight into the needs of the community and the ways that leaders, stakeholders, and legislators should be investing in the community to promote long-term peace, health, and thriving.

- Karen Carter, Urban Peace Institute

- Melvyn Hayward, Chicago CRED

- Kevin "Twin" Orange, Advocates for Peace & Urban Unity

- Ben "Taco" Owens, Detours Mentoring Group, Inc.

- Tina Padilla, Breaking Through Barriers to Success

- Skip Townsend, Second Call

Knowing the Justice Client for Compassionate Justice

1:00 - 2:15pm Friday, 23rd July, 2021

Police and other justice actors are taught about the law and expected to manage crime and offending behavior. It is imperative in today’s society for justice actors to have an understanding of who the justice client is to change the narrative and build a more compassionate justice system.

Daniel J. Jones, University of Huddersfield, Edmonton Police Service

Document This! Theorizing Lived Experience: Critical Perspectives on Policing and “Gangs”

1:00 - 2:15pm Friday, 23rd July, 2021

The carceral state, as well as the short- and long-term effects of policing of individuals and communities is best understood by the people who have first-hand experience of being stigmatized as “gang members.” This panel will include the experiential knowledge of people labeled “gang members,” providing a “new” perspective that will allow participants to critically engage in discourses and analyze scholarship on “gangs.” The panel will feature people who will share empirical and theoretical work on aspects of policing “gangs” and what that means for “gang members” and the larger community.

- Juan Carlos Flores Jr – Ph.D Candidate, Rutgers University

- Ryan Flaco Rising – Gaucho Underground Scholars Program Coordinator, UC Santa Barbara

New Visions of Public Safety, Association & Belonging in a New England College Town

8:00 - 9:00am Saturday, 24th July, 2021

Professors Demetria and Amilcar Shabazz will facilitate a dialogue entitled, New Visions of Public Safety, Association & Belonging in a New England College Town.

Plenary Keynote: King Tone

9:00 - 9:50am Saturday, 24th July, 2021

Antonio “King Tone” Fernandez, CEO of Grow Up Grow Out, LLC, is the former head of the Latin Kings (the largest Latinx street gang in the US). Mirroring the activism of groups such as the Young Lords and the Black Panthers, he reformed and rebranded the Latin Kings and its 7,000 members as a political organization.

- Introduction of Speaker; Maresa Martin Talbert, Co-Chair San Diegans for Justice.

Reframing Peace Building Movements in Los Angeles

 10:00 - 11:15am Saturday, 24th July, 2021

Peacebuilding and changing the narrative around “gangs” are two important strategies that can contribute to the abolition of the racist targeting of Black and Brown community members by law enforcement. This panel will discuss how destigmatizing informal community organizations (i.e., gangs) can influence the public perceptions of crime, defend peacebuilders who are targeted by law enforcement, and minimize the criminalization of Black and Brown community members.

- Michael Saavedra, Youth Justice Coalition, Dignity and Power Now

- Lex Steppling, Dignity and Power Now

- David Dodson, Youth Justice Coalition;

- Nalya Rodriguez, Department of Sociology, University of California, Irvine

The Lay of the Land: The Proliferation and Themes of Gang Legislation in the United States (MCLE)

 10:00 - 11:15am Saturday, 24th July, 2021

This presentation takes stock of gang legislation in the United States. We begin by putting gangs in historical perspective, tracing the transition from the “playgroups” to “social problems” turn in popular views and research on gangs. Next, we establish the logics underlying the enactment of gang legislation. We then detail the proliferation of legislation across federal and state governments. Finally, we compare and contrast the key features of gang legislation across jurisdictions. The aims of this presentation are descriptive rather than explanatory, documenting the legal scaffolding permitting criminal justice responses to gangs and will present original research by Professor Pyrooz and Jose Antonio Sanchez.

- David C. Pyrooz, University of Colorado, Boulder

Document This! Educated Gangstas: A Study of Gang Members as They Navigate America’s Educational System

10:00 - 11:15am Saturday, 24th July, 2021

Most of the current literature on gangs today focuses on their perceived criminality. The purpose of this presentation is to provide an alternative narrative about gang-affiliated college students that helps understand their educational journey to achieve a higher education degree. Gabrielle Hines will discuss her dissertation research around gang members as they navigate through America’s educational system followed by a panel of impacted students.

- Gabrielle Hines, School of Entrepreneurship and Technology- David C. Pyrooz, University of Colorado, Boulder

Abolishing and Reforming States’ AntiGang Laws (MCLE)

11:30am - 12:45pm Saturday, 24th July, 2021

This strategy session will consider a framework for creating model state legislation that can be used to reform or abolish anti-gang laws and implement more effective strategies to promote public safety, depending on the objective and political conditions of individual states. We will create a rubric to evaluate states’ responses to gangs which can be used to craft new legislation. This strategy session will be informed by Professor David Pyrooz’s “Lay of the Land” presentation that will be held immediately before this strategy session.

- Sean Garcia-Leys, Peace and Justice Legal Center, UC Irvine School of Law Criminal Justice Clinic

Document This! From Documented to Documenting: Community Control, Knowing Your Rights, and Demanding Accountability

11:30am - 12:45pm Saturday, 24th July, 2021

This presentation will talk about our journey through gang life and the path from being targeted and victimized by overzealous police, to actively working with community members to demand our rights and hold police accountable.

- Michael Whyte – Organizer, Pillars of the Community

- Abdul Aziz “Ise B” Williams – Pillars of the Community

Liberating Ourselves: Participatory Defense and Community Legal Clinics

1:00 - 2:15pm Saturday, 24th July, 2021

This session will present methods used by community organizations to effect what happens in courtrooms. Silicon Valley De-Bug will present on the participatory defense methods they have developed to support criminal defendants. Members of Chicanxs Unidxs de Orange County will present on their legal clinic which supports people with legal services other than criminal defense.

-Andrew Bigelow, Silicon Valley De-Bug

-Zach Kirk, Silicon Valley De-Bug

-Daisy Bautista, Chicanxs Unidxs

-Julie Vue, Chicanxs Unidxs

Community Outreach / Organizing

1:00 - 2:15pm Saturday, 24th July, 2021

This presentation will discuss public education and organizing efforts in communities targeted for gang suppression policing tactics like social media surveillance, gang databases, and conspiracy prosecutions.

- Josmar Trujillo, Policing and Social Justice Project, NYC GANGS Coalition

- Anthony Posada, Legal Aid Society, NYC GANGS Coalition

Document This! Let’s Talk About Gangs

1:00 - 2:15pm Saturday, 24th July, 2021

This session will be a conversation around “Gangs,” “Gang Membership,” and “Gang Culture.” What does it mean to be in a gang, how should we frame conversations around gangs and gang activity, are all gang members criminals or have they been criminalized by a system that was never meant to serve them? No subject is off the table in this open and frank conversation.

- Alonzo Harvey – Pillars Transfer Scholar, UC Berkley

- James Wiley Jr - Founder & President of REEL Teens, Southeast Manager for Urban Youth Collaborative

Police Surveillance

10:00 - 11:15am Sunday, 25th July, 2021

Police spying and infiltration of our communities is rooted in the racist history of state surveillance of Black, indigenous, and migrant people and is part of a growing wholesale practice speculatively criminalizing people not suspected of any crime. The Stop LAPD Spying Coalition will present on their work organizing against police surveillance.

- Jamie Rae, Stop LAPD Spying Coalition

- Hamid Khan, Stop LAPD Spying Coalition

- Shakeer Rahman, Stop LAPD Spying Coalition

Understanding and Defeating Civil Gang Injunctions in California

10:00 - 11:15am Sunday, 25th July, 2021

This presentation will report on the activism of Chicanxs Unidxs de Orange County and Chiques Community Coalition (CORE) from 2009-2021 against Civil Gang Injunctions. We describe successes in defeating or limiting several injunctions by bringing together community mobilization and courtroom litigation. We will also analyze the origins and significance of the gang injunction tactic in the political economy and culture of Southern California in the post-Cold War era.

- James Spady, Soka University of America

- Alex Scott, University of California, Riverside

- Gaby Hernandez, Chicanxs Unidxs

- Francisco “Chavo” Romero, Chiques Community Coalition (CORE)

- Frank Barajas, California State University Channel Islands

The Federal Role in Gang, Gun and Drug Enforcement

10:00 - 11:15am Sunday, 25th July, 2021

In 2020 the Justice Department launched a law enforcement crackdown targeting gangs and drug traffickers in seven “high-crime” cities. They increased the number of agents assigned to federal task forces, and provided $51 million to hire more local cops. Such operations have long promoted mass criminalization and gang “take-downs.” This year, the Biden administration is again flooding our cities with money to hire cops and intensify task force operations. We will discuss the lessons learned from “Operation Relentless Pursuit” through the lens of Memphis, TN, where activists mounted protests, marshaled media resources and built resistance, trying to pressure city officials to terminate cooperation with federal policing agendas.

- Joia Erin Thornton, Southern Center Human Rights

- Judy Greene, Justice Strategies

Plenary Strategy Session: Building a National Network

11:30am - 12:45pm Sunday, 25th July, 2021

At this plenary session, attendees will strategize around the building of a national network to address the issues raised during the conference.

- Moderator: Alex S. Vitale, Policing and Social Justice Project, Brooklyn College

Plenary Keynote: California State Senator Kamlager / Closing

1:00 - 2:30pm Sunday, 25th July, 2021

Senator Sydney Kamlager successfully ran for the California State Assembly in 2018 and now represents the 30th Senate District, which includes the diverse communities of Culver City, Ladera Heights, Westmont, and the Crenshaw, Downtown, and Florence neighborhoods of Los Angeles. Senator Kamlager actively promotes police reforms and supports legislation addressing gang criminalization.

- Introduction of Speaker by Khalid Alexander, Founder and President, Pillars of the Community


The conveners of the 2021 conference included The Earl B. Gilliam Bar Association, Pillars of the Community, Community Advocates for Just and Moral Governance (MoGo), The UC Irvine Law School Criminal Justice Clinic, Detours Mentoring Group, Inc., San Diegans for Justice, and the Peace and Justice Law Center.


The Earl B. Gilliam Bar Association is a 501(c)(6) nonprofit organization whose mission is to advance the political, economic, educational, social, legislative and legal interests of the Black community in San Diego County. We are committed to defending the legal and human rights of all people, promoting the administration of justice, eradicating the root causes of racism, promoting the professional and personal interests of its individual members, and preserving high standards of integrity, honor, and courtesy in the legal profession.


Pillars of the Community is committed to embracing and celebrating the historic, rich, and diverse culture of Southeast San Diego. We strive to counter the criminalization of our community through community organizing, leadership development, and strategic partnerships. Our vision is for a healthy and thriving Southeast San Diego which reflects the rich and diverse culture of all its members.


MoGo was founded by two Black women lawyers who have dedicated their lives and careers to secure racial equality, social justice, and greater access to quality education. Everyday at MoGo, we work to make our society better by eliminating barriers to full inclusion of every member of our society due to racism. We recognize that there is racial injustice in all systems in our country: our healthcare, education, legal, political, foster care, and economic systems. We take direct action to achieve equity in all of these areas.

Community Advocates for Just and Moral Governance (MoGo) promotes good governance. MoGo is committed to engaging in litigation and various forms of advocacy that will make government more just and fully accountable to all people, particularly those who have been marginalized from society.


The Criminal Justice Clinic represents low-income individuals in state criminal court and helps non-citizens seek post-conviction relief when facing immigration consequences of past criminal offenses. Helping non-citizens find relief from past criminal convictions and ensure they can stay in the United States with their families is a priority for the Criminal Justice Clinic. The clinic also collaborates with community organizations to work towards broader reform of the criminal justice system.


The mission of the Detours Mentoring Group is dedicated to enhance the empowerment of at-risk youth in our community, to enable the youth to make positive life choices that will benefit and maximize their personal potential. Committed to being a pillar in the community, instill a progressive sense of life, career, planning and achievement. Our goal is to reach the youth between 12 thru 18 years by reaching out to them right where their need may be.


San Diegans for Justice is a committee in support of an independent, community-led Commission on Police Practices that will investigate cases of police misconduct. This commonsense solution will increase transparency, accountability, and community trust.


The Peace and Justice Law Center provides pro bono legal services and contributes to the development of public policies that make communities safer and advance the cause of equal protection under the law.



Co-Chair,  Conference Planning Committee

Co-founder and Board President, Community Advocates for Just and Moral Governance


Co-Chair,  Conference Planning Committee

MTO Fellow and Visiting Scholar, University of California, Irvine School of Law


Co-Chair, Conference Planning Committee

Program Director, Pillars of the Community



Member, Conference Planning Committee

Vice President, Earl B. Gilliam Bar Association


Member, Conference Planning Committee

Executive Director, Detours Mentoring Group, Inc.


Member, Conference Planning Committee

Associate Professor of Law

Widener University Delaware Law School


Member, Conference Planning Committee

Associate Professor in the School of Public Affairs

San Diego State University