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Protesters oppose toughening 3 strikes

Santa Clarita’s Sen. Runner wrote Proposition 6

Posted: July 26, 2008 12:31 a.m.
Updated: September 26, 2008 5:03 a.m.

A group gathered outside City Hall, to protest Prop. 6 on Friday afternoon. Many passed out fliers while others held pictures of family members they say were wrongfully accused of a crime. Some protested punishments that they say didn't fit the crime.

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More than a dozen protesters paraded the sidewalk outside City Hall Friday afternoon to shout their opposition to a state ballot measure that would impose tougher penalties on felons and gang members.

Protesters held up photos of young people they said were unfairly turned into victims from the Three Strikes law and a few protesters held up bars that represented a prison cell.

"Let's do preventative work," said Geri Silva, executive director of Families to Amend California's Three Strikes. "Let's not put our youth in prison."

Proposition 6, authored by state Sen. George Runner, will appear on the ballot in November. The measure would strengthen the 10-20-life law and would bring harsher penalties for felons, gang members with guns, and criminal accomplices, according to information provided by Runner's office. It would also prohibit bail for illegal immigrants charged with violent or gang-related crimes and would bring more funding to local sheriff's departments.

The protesters gathered outside City Hall, home to Runner's Santa Clarita district office.

The measure, also known as the Safe Neighborhoods Act, would add 10 years of prison time for felons who carry loaded or concealed firearms in public. It would also take public housing benefits away from anyone caught buying or selling drugs, or who is involved in gang activity or illegal possession of firearms.

If approved, the initiative would bring forth a "Use a gun and lose a car" regulation that would apply when a car is used in crime, a gun is in the car and the registered owner is involved.

Runner, R-Antelope Valley, released a statement in response to Friday's protest.

"The opposition's understanding of Proposition 6 is off-base," he said in the statement. "That's too bad because far too many California communities are desperate for real gang reform ­- and true gang reform is what Proposition 6 offers. That's why Prop. 6 has strong support from California law enforcement, including rank and file cops, district attorneys, probation officers and every California sheriff."

Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca also responded in the statement, saying, "Proposition 6 makes public safety a number one priority, and that's why I support it. I believe that whether we are in rosy or gloomy budgetary times, public safety should be the first item funded and the safety and well-being of our citizens should never be on the budget negotiating table."

Silva and other protesters, however, said the words ‘Safe Neighborhoods' is deceiving.

"This is going to have such a negative effect on our communities," Silva said. "Anybody wants a safe neighborhood. (Voters) will say, ‘Yeah, I'll vote for that.'"

Youth Justice Coalition organizer Kim McGill said creating a comprehensive job training program and youth education centers are the best way to create safer neighborhoods.

"Prop. 6, like other tough-on-crime laws already on the books, won't create safe neighborhoods as it promises," she said in a statement. "What it will do is guarantee a prison cell for more of our youth."

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