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'Cucamonga' Gang Injunction Defies Jack Benny’s Legacy

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DA accuses 'Cucamonga Kings' of targeting African Americans

By Chris Levister –

Old-timer Eunice Williams remembers Mel Blanc's train-conductor character on the Jack Benny show calling out “Train leaving on track five for Anaheim, Azusa, and Cucamonga.” This running gag became so well known that it eventually led to a statue of Benny and a street named Jack Benny Drive in the unincorporated area that later became the city of Rancho Cucamonga.

Benny stands in the Victoria Gardens Cultural Center, his violin and bow hanging from one hand and his other hand, with palm-tocheek, in the body language that always brought a laugh to his audiences without a word being spoken. Pulling weeds from her home garden near Rochester Avenue, Williams says perhaps the most interesting aspect of the show was the relationship between Eddie Anderson (Rochester) and Jack Benny.

“There was a special respect and admiration between the two performers. Benny treated Rochester like family in and out of public view. His radio and TV shows sent a strong message about racism in the era of Jim Crow,” recalls Williams. “Jack insisted on diversi ty before it became fashionable.”

Widely recognized as one of the leading American entertainers of the 20th century, the comedian, vaudevillian, radio, television and film actor, made a conscious effort to remove the most stereotypical aspects of Rochester's character.

According to historical accounts, he insisted that his writers should make sure that no racial jokes or references should be heard on his show. Benny also often gave key guest-star appearances to African-American performers such as Louis Armstrong and The Ink Spots.

That’s why Williams, a Black woman in her 70s and others in this city who recall Benny’s legacy are still reeling over last week’s pre-dawn sweep of members of the Lat ino criminal street gang “Cucamonga Kings”.

The Cucamonga Kings are “especially hateful and violent toward Black persons who reside in the safety zone, which includes Old Town Park according to a 20-page criminal complaint filed in West Valley Superior Court in Rancho Cucamonga.

Friday, San Bernardino County District At torney Michael A. Ramos announced the filing of a lawsuit seeking a gang injunction in the city of Rancho Cucamonga against the gang. The injunction would make the gang the 13th in the county to be subject to such restrictions.

“You hear about gangs in neighboring San Bernardino and Rialto. But it never occurred to me that they would be in Rancho Cucamonga targeting African Americans,” said Williams.

The gang presently consists of approximately 200 members ranging in age from early teens through late fifties and older. The gang and its members treat the Safety Zone and especially Old Town Park as their exclusive gang “turf,” or territory and have done so for decades.

“Residents in the City of Rancho Cucamonga deserve to live and raise their families in a safe and crime-free environment. I believe the gang injunction sends a strong message that criminal activity will not be tolerated”, said Sheriff Rod Hoops.

The injunction sought by the DA’s Office represents an 18- month-long effort to crack down on the Kings' illegal activities - everything from burglaries and thefts to drug sales, assaults and murder, officials said.

Members will be prohibited from intimidating witnesses, blocking public passageways, possessing, selling or using controlled substances, displaying the gang’s name, signs, or symbols, and possessing or remaining in the presence of, any firearm, imitation firearm, ammunition or illegal weapon.

In addition to Old Town Park, Cucamonga Elementary School and Rancho Cucamonga Middle School are also main areas subject to protection in the Safety Zone.

“For decades, the people of Rancho Cucamonga and the surrounding communities have had to si t back and suffer numerous crimes at the hands of these local terrorists. Not on my watch,” said Ramos. “We look forward to working with the Sheriff’s Department in ending this gang’s criminal activity and making it possible for the members of this community to live their lives free of fear and violence.”

Williams, whose son and daughter are in interracial marriages, worries that fallout from the anti- Black gang activity will discourage African Americans and other minorities from locating in the city.

“Our city is a rainbow of diversity. We share or garden harvest. We trade recipes and coupons. I volunteer at a local soup kitchen that serves mostly Whites and Latinos. Like Jack Benny and Rochester, we’re family here,” she says.

Cucamonga Kings is the latest Lat ino criminal street gang accused of targeting Blacks to push them out of their neighborhoods.

June 2011, a federal grand jury indicted 51 people from Azusa allegedly associated wi th the Azusa 13 gang in what prosecutors described as actions “terrorizing” Blacks.

In 2006, the U.S. attorney's office announced a sweeping indictment against more than 60 members of Florencia 13, accusing the Latino gang of waging a violent campaign to drive out African American rivals. Once primarily Black, the working class community of 60,000 today is mostly Latino.

In the Harbor Gateway district of L.A. , police launched a crackdown in 2006 on another Latino gang accused of targeting Blacks, including 14-year-old Cheryl Green, whose death became a rallying point.

The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) published a report in 2006 about The Avenues gang, which at that time was attacking Black residents in Highland Park, also near L.A., allegedly on the orders of the Mexican Mafia, a major Latino prison and street gang.

The SPLC found that, even though these gangs are fundamentally criminal enterprises interested mainly in money, gang experts inside and outside the government argued that they were involved in a campaign of “ethnic cleansing” — racial terror directed solely at African Americans.

Meanwhile, Williams says despite the city’s gang troubles, she has no plans to be driven away from Rochester Avenue or out of Rancho Cucamonga where Jack Benny’s legacy of inclusion lives.

“This is my home. I plan on dying here.”

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