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Suzette Standring Headshot

Fight Crime, Ban Symbols

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Watch out. Wearing the wrong logo can land you in jail or cause such labeled property to be seized. A gang-related insignia of a Mongolian warrior sporting sunglasses has been prohibited for wear, licensing, sale or distribution by an injunction signed by Judge Florence-Marie Cooper of the U.S. District Court in Los Angeles in a connected criminal case.

Fashion sense is outlawed by court order, a historical first.

The Mongols are a largely Latino motorcycle gang, with 64 members recently arrested on racketeering charges. According to the injunction, suspected gang members and associates "shall surrender for seizure all products, clothing, vehicles, motorcycles ... or other materials bearing the Mongols trademark, upon presentation of a copy of this order," according to a 10/23/08 Associated Press report.

This mandate is believed to be the first time a group's identity can be taken over and controlled by a court order.

Which begs the question, with all due respect, is the legal bench smoking crack?

A total of seventy-nine Mongol members are under indictment for murder, torture, drug trafficking and more. If guilty, then our justice system is strong, intelligent and effective enough to secure convictions.

Do I really care what they wear? A patch, label or logo does not a murderer make. Let's not start down a road where in time the government gets into the business of controlling tee-shirt slogans.

Clearly, this court order lumbers clumsily into the realm of free speech. Opposition to this injunction will ultimately establish that it is not a crime to wear motifs, slogans or signs on clothing, no matter how offensive. Nor should it be.

I find swastikas or graphic sexual language emblazoned anywhere or on anyone publicly to be offensive. I am mightily disturbed to see the word, "nigger," in print. But I get over it. No form of expression should be micro-managed by the government. Even more abhorrent is the prospect of arrest, fines, or seizure of property for such displays.

Imagine. A court order that bans clothing or accessories sporting a patch of Ghenghis Khan wearing Ray Bans. Round up those leather jackets and the American people can breathe easier.

In what way does symbol-control wage an effective campaign against violence and drugs? It's actually comical when one realizes the court order itself can only be symbolic. Take away insignias from the public eye and presto! The gangs are gone!

Perhaps the prosecution convinced Judge Cooper that such an injunction would make identification of suspects that much easier.

But convictions can't be based on gang affiliation alone. Ultimate incarceration for actual crimes will rest on the hard work of investigation and facts, not the easy dragnetting of people wearing patches.

Sound legal reasoning will bear that out.

This ridiculous court order is born of a "round them all up and sort them all out later" mentality. It is a scary foreshadowing of future restrictions on every day expression.

My gosh. The fashion police just became a legal reality.