According to Julia Dunn, a gang “is an interstitial group, original formed spontaneously, and then integrated through conflict.” The term ‘interstitial’ refers to a culturally isolated or marginalized group of individuals, who, because of external circumstances (racism, lack of education, unemployment), have been left behind. These individuals adopt a ‘strength through numbers’ attitude, assume collective standards of behavior, develop ad hoc structures of hierarchy and esprit de corps. They identify with others of similar circumstances and exhibit territorial tendencies.
After World War I, African-American enclaves sprouted up in the urban areas of major cities with the United States. In the 1920s, Los Angeles encompassed large black conclaves, where unemployment was prevalent and poverty was the norm. Within these enclaves, family members and friends banded together into loose, unorganized associations that were, for the most part, non-violent. For lack of a better term, these associations came to be known as gangs. The gangs of this historical time were non-territorial. The primary function of such gangs was to present a ‘tough guy’ image and facilitate the accumulation of easy money by means of prostitution, forgery and theft.
Well-known gangs of this period – the 1920s and 1930s – included the Goodlows, the Kelleys, the Magnificents, the Driver Brothers, the Boozies and the Bloodgetts. During the following decade, the 1940s, black gangs increased their numbers, along with their activities, which now included extortion and gambling, in addition to the usual prostitution, forgery and theft. They provided ‘protection’ for local merchants, which was nothing more than simple coercion. Merchants paid for the privilege of not having their places of business torched by their so-called protectors.
With the advent of the 1950s, car clubs appeared. Car clubs were gangs-on-wheels that reflected America’s burgeoning obsession with automobiles. The names of the car clubs reflected their mobility: Low Riders, Coasters, Highwaymen, Road Devils, Businessmen, Gladiators, Rebel Rousers, Huns, Watts Farmers, and Blood Alley. Like their predecessors before World War II, these clubs were poorly organized; however, the car clubs demonstrated a territorial instinct that their predecessors did not. Disputes over territory erupted when club members rolled into another club’s territory. Each club would gather its gang members, meeting in a deserted parking lot or neighborhood park, where they would engage in battle with the opposing club. Chains, knives and bats were used as weapons. Over the course of time, gang warfare became more and more violent.
Car clubs fell by the wayside in the early 1960s. They were replaced by gangs that were not only more violent, but more organized. A South Central Los Angeles high school student, Raymond Washington, formed a gang called the Baby Avenues. The Baby Avenues eventually became the Crips, borrowing the name from Washington’s older brother, Reggie, who sprained his ankle. Reggie limped around with the word ‘cripple’ emblazoned on his canvas shoes. Raymond took the term, shortened it, and called his gang the Crips.
Raymond Washington, hugely muscled, was a bully, who supposedly wanted to model his gang after the Black Panthers. He never attained his goal because he lacked discipline, conviction and organizational abilities. All Raymond had going for him was brutality, which he employed far and wide. Raymond’s default mode was violence of the most vicious type. He utilized violence to expand his territory and increase his membership. His method of expansion was simple: he strolled into the enemy’s territory and beat the opposing gang leader into submission, telling the onlookers “either join me or become my enemy.” Most joined the Crips, some did not. Those that didn’t remained with their own gangs, engaging in bloody battles with the Crips.
Eventually, to protect themselves, the other gangs – the Compton Piru, the Brims near USC, the Swans, and the Bounty Hunters – formed an alliance called the Bloods. The Bloods alliance was the result of the March 1972 murder of Robert Ballou, Jr. It happened like this: after a concert at the Hollywood Paladium, a rat-pack of twenty Crips assaulted a group of teenagers, robbing them of their wallets and jackets. Robert Ballou, Jr. was one of the teenagers. Ballou resisted, refusing to surrender his jacket to the Crips. The Crips proceeded to jump him and beat him to death.
The brutal murder of Ballou, who was a neutron – a person unaffiliated with a gang – incensed the Compton Piru. The Piru went to war with the Crips. Outnumbered, the Piru really had no chance against the superior forces of the Crips. Realizing they needed help, the Piru approached the Lueders Park Hustlers about an alliance. The Lueders Park Hustlers agreed to a meeting on Piru Street. Not being shy, the Piru also invited every other gang that had grievances against the Crips. One gang that had a grudge against the Crips was the L.A. Brims. The Crips had murdered a gangbanger with the nickname of Lil Country, a member of the Brims. The Denver Lanes and the Bishops sent representatives as well.
The gang-banger meet-and-greet took place. The agenda had one item to be discussed: how to wipe the floor with the Crips. Everyone agreed that overwhelming numbers and ferocious violence were the answers. They agreed to form a single organization known as the Blood alliance. Before long, the Athens Park Boys and the Pueblos became sanctioned members of the Blood alliance, followed by still other smaller, independent gangs.
Of the gangs sanctioned into the Blood alliance, the Black P Stones were unusual, almost an anomaly. The Black P Stones began in Chicago, where the gang eventually became part of The People Nation. The L.A. chapter of the Black P Stones was created by T. Rogers, who established two decks of Black P Stones in L.A., one deck called the Jungles, located in Baldwin Village; the second deck, located in West Adams, was called City. When the L.A. Black P Stones joined the Blood alliance, the Chicago Black P Stones were outraged, and declared the L.A. Black P Stones renegades because they had not sought permission.
The alliance adopted red as the color of their flags. It was now Bloods versus Crips. Crips wore blue bandanas, while the Bloods adopted red bandanas. Thus began the bloody battle for South Los Angeles, Compton and Watts. Unsurprisingly, all members of the Blood alliance were required to shed the Blood – shoot, stab, slice – of an enemy gangbanger before becoming a Blood. Bloodletting demonstrated willingness to ‘ride’ for the set. The Blood alliance banged to defend their territories, to expand their territories, and to conquer new territories. Banging defined ‘going to war,’ while a gang’s territory was called the ‘hood.’
Blood sets constantly engaged in territorial expansion, which meant they were always banging. Blood sets marked their territory by means of extreme wall banging. Wall banging was nothing more than graffiti spray painted on walls, indicating territorial control.
In 1993, O.G.Mack formed the East Coast version of the Bloods. Mack called his organization the United Blood Nation, but most simply referred to it as the East Side Bloods.
O.G. Mack, whose real name was Omar Portee grew up in the Bronx, where he was raised by his grandmother. A member of a ruthlessly brutal gang called the One Eight Trey Gangsters, Mack was arrested in 1988 for armed robbery. He was 16 years old at the time. Mack spent the next three years in prison, Rikers Island. After being released in 1991, Mack’s grandmother sent him to California to live with relatives. Her goal was to separate him from the noxious influence of gangs. It didn’t work. Most of his relatives in L.A. were members of the Miller Gangster Bloods. In no time at all, Mack was neck deep in the L.A. gang culture. Although he never officially joined the Miller Gangster Bloods, Mack ran with the gang, whose members considered him a Blood.
Mack returned to the Bronx two years later, in 1993. He immediately took up where he left off, re-uniting with the One Eight Trey Gangsters. Impressed by Bloods’ culture in L.A., Mack wasted little time convincing his fellow gangbangers that they should become part of the Blood alliance. The gangbangers liked what they heard. The One Eight Trey Gangsters became the One Eight Trey Gangster Bloods.
A few months later, O.G. Mack was arrested for attempted murder. While awaiting trial, Mack was again held on Rikers Island, in the George Mochen Detention Center (GMDC), which was also called C-73. Individuals in GMDC were considered problem inmates and were segregated from the general prison population. On Rikers Island, where the prison was controlled by the Latino gangs, the independent black gangs found themselves fighting not only the Latino gangs, but also fighting other black gangs because of street grudges that carried over into prison. Most of these independent black gangs were affiliated with the umbrella alliance known as the African Blood Brotherhood or the Almighty Blood Brotherhood. Mack, realizing that the independent black gangs in prison needed a way to protect themselves from the Latino gangs, called for a meeting of independent black gang leaders. Mack’s idea, which he presented to the leaders, was to unite as a set of the Bloods. This unity would allow them to successfully defend themselves against the Latino gangs.
The independent leaders liked what they heard. Not only would the proposed unification enable them to protect themselves against the Latino gangs but it would put an end to their petty squabbles with other black gangs. A merger took place, giving birth to the Nine Trey Gangster Bloods. This unification was the foundation of the United Blood Nation or East Side Bloods.
By 2001, the East Side Bloods were a major force in the prisons and cities along the eastern seaboard, from Maine to Florida. Five Blood sets originated under the name United Blood Nation: One Eight Trey Gangsters, Sex Money Murder, Valentine Gangster Bloods, G Shine, and the Nine Trey Gangsters.
G Shine aka Gangster Killer Bloods, a Brooklyn-based gang, was led by Leonard Mackenzie, whose nickname was O.G. Deadeye. The Valentine Gangsters were the result of the 4th Chapter of the Universal Zulu Nation gang deciding to flip to the United Blood Nation. The Valentine Gangsters operated out of the Bronx River Projects in the East Bronx.
At this time, during the late 1990s, the Bloods, although much more prone to violence than the other gangs, were very loosely organized, without any Regional, National or local leadership or connection.
East Side Bloods operate prostitution rings, engage in armed robbery, protection rackets, and are deeply involved in drug trafficking. They also bang (go to war) with other gangs, including other Bloods, to expand their territories.
Due to a lack of evidence, his reputation for violence – his exacting revenge on anyone who testified against him – and the fact that Mack had the money to engage the services of a competent criminal defense attorney, O.G. Mack served only five years for the attempted murder charge. When he was released from prison in 1999, O.G. Mack went right back to banging, being the acknowledged leader of the United Blood Nation.
O.G. Mack quickly took control of his gang. Surrounded by armed gangbangers, everywhere he went Mack carried a 9mm Glock, along with an AK-47 assault rifle. The One Eight Trey Gangster Bloods were back in business. Business-as-usual included racketeering, theft, and armed robbery. The gang also expanded into cocaine distribution, which proved to be very lucrative. Because of their tendency for brutal violence, the One Eight Trey Gangster Bloods came to the attention of law enforcement officials.
In 2002, O.G. Mack was arrested by federal officials and charged with racketeering, conspiracy to commit murder, illegal possession of an AK-47, and conspiracy to distribute cocaine. After a two month trial, Mack was convicted. Sentencing took place in April of 2003. O.G. Mack was sentenced to 50 years in prison.