Marin County’s Board of Supervisors this morning unanimously approved an ordinance implementing a dress code that prohibits gang insignia and attire at the county fair.

The county’s Department of Cultural and Visitors Services requested the ordinance it said is supported by the sheriff’s and county counsel’s offices.

“Particular street gangs may be interested in attending the Marin County Fair (July 3-7) while displaying street insignia, and history, both here and elsewhere,” the department’s director Jim Farley said in a report to the board.

Farley said when a street gang “flies its colors,” rival street gangs engage in physical altercations.

The ordinance identifies the name, initials or symbol of a designated criminal street gang as Category One street gang identifiers that are subject to the ordinance.

Category Two identifiers are not specifically identified in the ordinance, but are defined as any identifier that is not in Category One.

The fair’s dress code policy and the list of prohibited identifiers associated with criminal street gangs will be on the county’s website a week before the fair starts each year including next month.

Under the ordinance, a sheriff’s officer with specialized, advanced training in street gangs will provide a list of known active street gangs and the categories of the identifiers associated with them.

The specially trained sheriff’s officer who determines someone is violating the dress code may require the fairgoer to conceal from view or remove the gang identifier or leave the fair.

The ordinance states wearing one or more Category One identifiers or displaying two or more Category Two identifiers of a criminal street gang qualify as violations of the dress code.

Wearing one or more Category Two identifiers combined with the “reasonable suspicion” of the specially trained officer that the fairgoer is a street gang member also is a violation of the dress code.

The officer is empowered to expel someone violating the dress code.

A few people who spoke against the ordinance said it leaves the door open to racial profiling and fosters a growing culture of surveillance in the country.

Undersheriff Mike Ridgeway said the ordinance “tightens up the standards that are already in place at the fair.” He said the ordinance is succinct and transparent.

Board members said they recognized the concerns about racial profiling.

Supervisor Steve Kinsey said the ordinance is not specific about the gang identifiers, and it seemed the county was “scrambling” to get the ordinance approved and have a legal justification for what the county already has been doing regarding the dress code at the fair.

“That has not been controversial,” Kinsey said.

Kinsey said he would support the ordinance with caution, and he and other supervisors requested a report after the fair on the number of contacts with violators of the ordinance.

Board members also said they want a report on the number of Category One and Two identifiers and expulsions.

“We’re not saying gang members are not welcome at the fair. The message is, leave the gang insignia at home. That’s my hope,” Supervisor Susan Adams said.

James Lanaras, Bay City News

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