If you've been in Queens Supreme Court recently, you may be wondering if there's been a major migration of people from Cincinnati, judging by all the Cincinnati Reds red-and-black caps which seem to populate the building. But the Big Red Machine hasn't kicked the Mets out of Queens' heart just yet; members of the Bloods have appropriated the Cincinnati insignia to get under the skin of their rivals, the Crips, and to show solidarity with fellow soldiers on trial. "They should not be coming into this courthouse wearing their colors. This is our territory, not theirs," says Mariela Palomino Herring, the chief of the Queens district attorney's gang violence bureau.
We already knew that many criminals and gang members like wearing Yankees hats. But according to Herring, a dozen or more Bloods members pack into the court house on a daily basis wearing the caps (as well as other red articles of clothing) to intimidate witnesses or show support for other Bloods on trial. They use the Reds caps because of the color as well as the prominent "C," a direct insult to the blue-wearing Crips. And even though they have to take off the hats in courtroom, many wear red shoelaces or other subtler red articles don't get the message across.They can't be banned from wearing the colors inside the courthouse, even though prosecutors are aware of their implications, because of a federal judge's 2003 decision striking down efforts by a Nevada courthouse to ban bikers from wearing their colors. The other problem is that the Reds caps have also become popular due to celebrities such as Lil Wayne wearing them, so not everyone in one is necessarily a Blood.
Other gangs have taken up using baseball caps as gang insignia as well: Manhattan court officers say they see lots of black-and-gold Pittsburgh Pirates hats, a favorite of the Latin Kings. But Curtis Silwa, founder of the Guardian Angels, thinks these shenanigans need to be stopped: "What they're doing is to show anyone who's testifying, 'We're here; we know who you are.' That should not be permitted at all. I would prefer that they all wear orange prison jumpsuits to court."