When the Law is wrong It turns the Police into Thugs

Los Angeles Councilman Bill Rosendahl has brought into Venice, CA a special squad of 21 LAPD officers for the expressed purpose of vigorously enforcing LA MC 85.02 which forbids "living" or sleeping in a vehicle parked on the street. He is doing this at a time when America is enduring it's worst economic crisis since the '30's. He is doing this in a year in which as many as 2 million families nationwide will lose their homes in foreclosure. He is doing this at a time when an increasing number of the less fortunate among us find that their safest option is to sleep in their vehicles.

Chief of Staff Mike Bonin wrote in the Dec. 2010 Venice Neighborhood Council Newsletter:

At the councilmember's request, Police Chief Charlie Beck assigned 21 additional officers to the area. LAPD formed a Venice Homelessness Task Force, ... City prosecutors are training cops to build evidence against people violating laws that prohibit living in vehicles.

You are not allowed to sleep in your car here. You are, however, allowed to sleep on the sidewalk between the hours of 9pm and 6am.

I have occasionally slept in my car, although never in Venice. In Venice, my car is parked in it's spot and I sleep in my bed under my roof. But I have been on the road and found myself perhaps too far from a motel or maybe I didn't have the money for one, or perhaps I just needed to catch a few hours of sleep so that I could safely resume driving. But whatever the reason, I never thought it a good idea to get out of my car and sleep on the pavement as the LAPD demands. I always knew that I would be safer, more comfortable and better protected from the extremes of weather if I slept in my locked car than if I slept on the sidewalk. I'm sure you will agreed, just don't try that in Venice.

In Venice, with this Venice Homelessness Task Force in the lead, the LAPD has been very busy and successful in finding 1st time they tried to tow Eric's truck. Late Nov. 2010people caught napping in their vehicles and arresting them for violation of 85.02. While these "criminals" are getting out of jail, their RV, van, truck or car is ticketed and towed. Often to a city lot in Sylmar 38 miles from Venice. Any pets are taken to a pound somewhere else. By the time these now twice troubled families get bailed out of jail, the towing charge and daily storage charges grow the cost of retrieving what is probably their last major possession beyond their reach and that relatively safe place to sleep is gone forever. So impoverished, they need to look for a shopping cart for their few remaining possessions and are forced to start sleeping on the street.

And that is what the Councilman intends. He is using the law to run poor people out of Venice. That is why he is putting addition LAPD resources into the vigorous enforcement of 85.02. He has the support of wealthy and influential developers who see poor people in Venice as a factor in lowering property values. 504 Pacific after being hit by SUV 15-04-2011 Last night (14/04/11) a speeding SUV ran into an apartment building at 504 Pacific Ave and instantly turned two families out into the street. The lucky part was that no one was killed. By contrast you will find no vigorous enforcement of the speed limit along Pacific Ave in spite of longstanding community demands, because slowing down traffic on Pacific will make living in South Venice and Marina Del Rey less fun and thus with lower property values.

The police don't always arrest the sleeper and tow the vehicle. Maybe a big tow truck wasn't available. Sometimes they let people off with a warning. Like if they are even caught driving through Venice, they will be arrested and towed. And they can do it. Any time. Any place. I heard they took the keys out of one woman's hand while she has standing outside, went into her bus, took pictures to prove she had been living in it, the criminal, and by now you know the drill, had her vehicle towed, her pets sent to the pound and she to jail.Petr on bass 2011-03-27 I've heard enough stories about threats and beatings [ I saw the bruises on my friend Petr's back - 13/04/11 ] to know that the LAPD is resorting to the tactics of thugs in their effort to run poor and homeless people out of Venice.

There is a problem with 85.02. Equal justice is not a phrase that can be applied to all laws. Sometimes the law is wrong and the people are right. Sometimes a law has no moral right to exist. When that happens, the people opposing the law become the righteous ones and the law enforcement agencies become thugs.

This is not the first time an reconcilable contradiction has existed between what is law and what is justice. For the first 80 plus years of this nation's history slavery was the law of the land. In that case the contradiction between law and justice was so sharp that a bloody and protracted civil war had to be fought to set matters right. But before that, before that law had been overthrown, slaves that 'ran away' and those that helped them were branded as "criminals" and everywhere in the United States, law enforcement was expected to add capturing "runaway slaves" to their long "todo list."

I'm sure the Venice Klan, in it's day, rallied behind the demand for vigorous enforcement of the slave codes with the simple demand "It's the law! Enforce the law!" To do otherwise would have lowered "property" values.

But I think that "law" had no moral foundation and as a result the police that caught runaway slaves turned into thugs, we know from the historical record that they acted like thugs, and the runaway slaves and those who supported them were the righteous ones.

Similarly, I think those that fight and have fought to see that women have safe abortions on demand, even when it was illegal, have been the righteous ones, and those that attempted and still attempt to jail people for exercising that right are thugs.

Another example of the contraction between the law and justice can be found closer to home and nearer to the present in PC 286, California's law against anal penis contact ("however slight!") which was not overthrown until 1976. I wonder if Bill Rosendahl was a "criminal" in those days or was he more consistent, calling for special squads of LAPD to bust into Venice bedrooms and vigorously enforce PC 286 because "it's the law."

Ivonne Guzman and VNC Meeting 12-04-2011He may have thought like that back then, I know some people did. But I think they were wrong. I think that law had no moral foundation. I think the people that said the law had no business telling consenting adults how to have sex or who with were the righteous ones and the enforcers of that law were the thugs.

Under the concrete conditions of today, in which 1.) Many people are being made homeless as a result of circumstances over which they have no control and 2.) Neither they nor the city can provide them with a safer or healthier place to sleep than their vehicle, a law which demands that these people sleep "legally" unprotected on the sidewalk lest they be jailed and have their vehicles towed is without moral foundation. There are no proclamations of judges or councilmen that can give it one. Under these circumstance those that enforce the unjust law become thugs and those that fight it, like recently arrested Venice Neighborhood Council rep and feeder of the homeless, Ivonne Guzman, and my friend Petr, who was with her at the time, are the righteous ones. It is simple as that.

Overthrow 85.02!

After the meeting I got this Hateful Phone Message.