Civil Rights

Venice Homeless Person Not Guilty – For Erecting a Toilet

By David Busch

I love you.

After a year now of controversial Venice arrests, 12 jurors have found that a homeless person’s “porta-potty” erected here in Venice on Third Ave. near Rose – and which was torn down and destroyed by the LAPD last April – had been a lawful benefit to this community.

I’m David Busch.

And the porta-potty was mine.

The potty, covered with hippy peace signs – and bearing a smiley-faced placard, stating, “Hi, I’m your porta-potty” – had been erected by me as a way to serve all of Venice.

And, like all basic human needs must be – it was free. For I have been given so much to my spirit, I now know this.

I first came here to Venice in 1980 and rented for a couple of years on the boardwalk. I was a diesel mechanic back then – for the city; and today I’m a proud Venice Hippy.

But early this year, after pushing literally hundreds of us “homeless people” and youth travelers several blocks off the people’s Boardwalk from midnight until 5 am each night with the City of L.A.’s  illegal beach closure and with no toilets available until nearly 8 am, I was actually arrested by LAPD – and charged with “creating and maintaining a public nuisance” (P.C. 372), for erecting a much-needed homemade porta-potty behind Digital Domain.

Where up to 120 people – and still without toilets right here in Venice – have been attempting for all this time, to this day, to find themselves a safe spot for nightly shelter in Venice. As the poor, youth travelers, street kids – and we hippies in Venice – long had on the Beach and Boardwalk, before its illegal closure. And with  plenty of room for both us and the thousands of tourists we welcome here, in our own Venice way.

So starting with a tent, I had began collecting donations of soap, cleaning supplies and toiletries; and I soon found myself daily emptying and carefully re-cleaning a bucket, and a toilet seat lid for the porta-potty. Later, a beautiful lady here named Mariska donated a bigger tent. One homeless man, living in his car, donated rolls of toilet paper he bought himself – each week. I kept things washed, and had some water with chlorine for occasional spills.

This setup was in line with procedures outlined in Red Cross emergency manuals.

For months, maintaining this potty further required the hauling of some tightly-sealed 5 gallons buckets for nearly four city blocks, down to the Rose area Beach toilets once they were opened.

But I want you to know, I now know that any of us can do it – and juries will stand with us on this.  And even the hazmat officials who arrested me agreed that our porta-potty beat out the City’s Beach toilets for over-all cleanliness.

At the end of the four day trial, the verdict was handed down in Los Angeles’ LAX/Airport Superior Court on Wednesday, December 19. And in declaring me innocent, this jury had to find that the utility of my  conduct to the  community outweighed any other offense.

Additionally, I was also charged in this trial by LAPD with violating the Los Angeles municipal code LAMC 56.11: leaving or permitting to remain “any article of personal property upon any parkway or sidewalk.” For having, on Third Ave., my homeless shopping-cart wheeled box, which holds my, and other people’s on the streets, possessions.

At trial the jury deliberated for many hours over two days, and after three requests to the Judge for the

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court to clarify the law and testimony, including one  seeking a further explanation of the ordinance, which was denied, the jury, in response, returned its verdict to me on this second charge: “Guilty.” For violating LAMC 56.11.

This is despite the fact that in Los Angeles LAMC 56.11 has been significantly constrained for several years by a Federal injunction, due to a prior homeless lawsuit against this homeless-abusing city: “Lavan v Los Angeles.”  This injunction had specifically been brought to prevent the seizure and destruction of homeless people’s property that is merely left on the sidewalk, and not abandoned, just as I had  maintained in this instance.

But for several years, this injunction has also brought the ire of some vocal, and winey,  LAPD officers here in Los Angeles, who claim that they cannot tell what an imminent threat to public health and safety is. And a bizarre crusade to overturn this law by our current Los Angeles City Attorney, Carmen Trutanich.  And now in Venice, LAPD is using this ordinance to harass the youth hitchhikers here – and lump them all in with us homeless, in violation of their rights to continued coastal access.

And so, strangely, and despite this injunction’s being upheld in a recent 9th Circuit appeal – at my  trial, the judge would not allow jurors to hear about this injunction. And not even a simple proposed, jury instruction that merely would have stated that the charge must be balanced – by all people’s 4th Amendment right to property.

My attorney here in Venice, John Raphling, who has represented me on this, further argued that this  Los Angeles city law is so vague that merely locking one’s bicycle to a pole, or parking one’s car in Venice, on the face of it, violates this crazy ordinance.

Yet housed people aren’t driven from Venice over it.

To me it is so sad to see that our Venice, a community of 42,000, has absolutely no shelter beds now whatsoever; and this, additionally, while our Councilman Bill Rosendahl was recently bombarded by another homeless-hate campaign for his support that we homeless people merely have access to some kind of day-storage facility here.

I ask you, “What good is an equal  ‘Right to Property’ anyway – if we haven’t even a legal place to keep it? Do they make housed people here now carry their houses around on their backs, everywhere they go?”

What will you do when you loose your own house?

So, for standing up for this storage, the City Attorney’s Office demanded at my sentencing – for parking a box on the sidewalk in Venice – that I be entirely banished from Venice for three years.

The honorable Nancy Newman was this trial’s presiding Judge.

Newman, instead, sentenced me to no probation, one day in jail – and time-served for this arrest.

To me, the bottom line of this absurdly wasteful trial was that after three days, and hours and hours of truly bizarre testimony officially presented by LAPD officers, the jury, in cleaning up all this mess – just spoke for all the loving Venetians here.

The LAPD testified that they never saw urination or defecation in any of Venice’s streets, gutters, or alleys – contradicted by testimony and photos, from their own hazardous waste officials, that more than 60 pounds of feces, and urine-deposited matter was collected by them from the streets, sidewalks and alleys around Third Ave.. And these Venice officers insisted that feces contained in a bucket and later dumped down the toilet was supposedly a greater threat to the public than the pounds of feces and urination that they, in fact, had found themselves smeared across Venice’s sidewalks, parking lots, alleys, and streets – and all of which, supposedly, was meant to pick apart my own effort to keep Venice safe.

Venice’s LAPD officers have now been given some new, common-sense orders by their own, highest authority – we the people. Twelve jurors have now instructed LAPD in Venice to open up their eyes, and recognize that even a homemade porta-potty by a homeless person here is far better than urination and defecation anywhere in Venice’s beautiful streets. I hope those that cry for “law and order in Venice” aren’t just hypocrites and will recognize that this is now the law.

Homeless porta-potties, simply and properly maintained, are not a public nuisance – and without something better to meet human need and sanitation – they are a benefit to all in the community.

Finally, I just especially want to thank my Defense Attorney John Raphling, who provided his own services to all of us here in Venice in this matter pro-bono, and is a member of the National Lawyers’ Guild.

Because with this victory, you can bet we all who’ve loved Venice have even more plans. And adequate toilets for Venice are just a start.

To sign a petition demanding more available public toilets, go to change.org and search “Access to toilets is a human right.”

I love you.

——————————————————

David Busch has recently taken a vow to begin and end all his conversations with I love you.

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