Gentrification is well underfoot in the beach community of Venice, CA and for months now the LAPD has been carrying out a vicious campaign against the homeless and people living in their vehicles. The latest round of attacks is focused on finding an excuse to confiscate any vehicles that someone is suspected of sleeping in. Venice has always tolerated a large population of RV dwellers, it is part of the Venice Beach tradition. Now that the capitalist crisis is forcing more and more people out of their homes and apartments and into their vehicles. The LAPD, under the direction of District Councilmember Bill Rosendahl, has dusted off and started aggressively enforcing a most probably unconstitutional city ordinance against sleeping in a vehicle parked on a city street. These are people that Bill Rosendahal's own Chief of Staff, Mike Bonin has described as being "one small and fragile step from sleeping on the streets." Now Bill Rosendahl is taking what homes they have and shoving them onto the streets. At a time when our homeless population is already rapidly increasing, the LAPD is specializing in making people homeless.
Mike Bonin writes 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, marshaling and directing resources to focus on quality-of-life crime and direct the homeless to social services. City prosecutors are training cops to build evidence against people violating laws that prohibit living in vehicles.
And make no mistake about it, if the only alternative to the sidewalk is your car, van or RV, it's home to you. Once they have taken away people's alternatives, the city ordinance says they are allowed to sleep on the sidewalk between 9PM and 6AM. The 21 strong LAPD Homeless Task Force, known in the neighborhood as Rosendalh's goons, are there to make sure no one beds down early and back again at 6AM to ticket or arrest anybody caught still napping. Generally these people, who have been given no place else to go, can also expect a 3AM harassment 'bed check' into the bargain. There are long waiting lists for the beds in the few shelters on the westside, and the winter program that takes people without housing away to someplace warm for the night hasn't started yet. This is how we treat our less fortunate citizens in this time of economic crisis.
This is Eric's RV when the police tried to tow it earlier this month while he was working an out-of-town job to earn a little money. He had a friend moving it every 72 hrs. and the friend found this tow truck and police just waiting for the clock to run out one morning. They tried to tow it anyway, and threaten the friend with arrest, but he managed to get them to back off that time.
Lisa Green, this November's Green Party candidate to represent Venice in the State Assembly lives in her van. Yesterday she told me she got a ticket for being parked too far from the curb. This is typical of the type of infraction that Rosendalh's goons are using as weapons of home destruction. They write tickets for every little thing, real or fabricated, knowing that the vehicle owner will never be able to keep up. If they had a nice little cash hoard, they probably wouldn't be living in their vehicles. Then they tow the vehicle, or they scream 'hazmat' and tow the vehicle right way. They tow it to a yard far away in the valley, not the city yard close by in the Marina. That no doubt increases the towing charge and makes the logistics of getting the vehicle back more difficult. Meanwhile the storage charges start adding up quicker than the owner can raise funds. That's assuming he or she is not in jail because what the police really like to do is arrest the owner for living in the vehicle. That is how a lot of people are losing their last valuable possession in the world and are being made destitute around here.
In one case the police asked a women standing outside her RV, "Are those your keys?" When she answered "yes" she was placed in handcuffs. Then they used the keys to enter the RV, took pictures to prove she was living in it. Then they towed the RV and took her to jail. The story I've already heard too many times is the RV was towed, she was arrested and her pets were taken to the pound.
They towed Shareen's bus last Saturday night. I was there and saw all. The police tried to stop me from filming, first they threaten me with arrest and made me move way back. Then they kept a bright light on me, even when I changed positions several times, to make filming difficult.
They said they were towing the bus because sewage was leaking from the holding tank. I could see some wetness on the ground under the drain valve [see white box in picture above] but I couldn't see any dripping at that time and no smell. The police said that no one had reported it, they just happen to driven by and noticed it. But while I was filming, a woman came by and said that she saw the woman that had reported it messing around the bus and taking pictures before she reported it.
Shareen was on a trip when they towed her bus. She is a longtime Venice resident. The bus has for years been parked there on the street in front of the home where her ex-husband and children live. Since their divorce it has been an arrangement to seemed to work for everyone involved.
UPDATE: Word on the street is that Shareen got her bus back. I haven't talked to her so I don't know how much it cost her.
UPDATE: Lawsuit filed to protect civil rights of RV Residents
From December 1st Venice Beachhead
By Peggy Lee Kennedy
A civil rights lawsuit has been filed in federal court on November 23 against the City of Los Angeles for violation of the Fourth, Fifth, and Fourteenth Amendments, and the Americans With Disabilities Act.
The plaintiffs in this civil rights lawsuit are part of the Venice community. Most are people who have lived in Venice for many years and used to be housed here. They get all their services here, they have been involved in the St. Joseph surveys, they are on housing lists, and they have given their personal information for getting in the "Streets to Homes" program - if it ever happens.
Their disabilities range from congestive heart failure, chronic bronchitis, nerve damage, shattered bones, and gout. One of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit is now on antibiotics and complains that she is coughing up blood from a new lung infection. Another plaintiff keeps "NitroQuick" on him at all times in case he feels a heart attack coming on.
The list of civil rights attorneys filing this suit include Attorney Carol Sobel, past president and very active member of the National Lawyers Guild, Attorney Barry Litt, a well respected civil rights lawyer known for working on the Pentagon Papers, Attorney Susan Millman with the Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles and long time Venice resident, and Attorney Scott Rapkin with the Law Offices of Michael Rapkin in Santa Monica.
UPDATE: Shareen spoke out at the Venice Townhall Meeting on Dec. 2, 2010
See also A Death in Venice
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