By Timothy Trygg
Municipal code LAMC 42.15 was established to stop the selling of commercial items on Ocean Front Walk (OFW) so that there would be more space for the artists and the stores would have less competition. Venice has been known for its free speech zones, musicians, jewelry makers/wire wrappers for years. Since the beginning of time jewelry has been considered an art-form, and most prestigious, well-established art museums worldwide have jewelry pieces on display.
Selling jewelry on OFW was made illegal under LAMC 42.15, code which does not include jewelry in the definition of art. Quoting a price for your jewelry is punishable by a fine, and a second offense can result in a misdemeanor, which is punishable by a fine or your arrest and confiscation of your property.
In fact, LAMC 42.15 is so broad that it has banned the selling of hula hoops on OFW. Do you think that selling a hand-made hula hoop should be considered a crime? My friend Jennifer Jenson has been given three tickets, and was grabbed by her wrists, very aggressively, by LAPD cops, for being hesitant to sign the ticket. She had to go to the doctor because of her injuries.
Several other items that have been sold in Venice for years were banned by LAMC 42.15. For example, wrapping someone’s hair is now illegal. I was given a ticket three months ago for selling a bracelet I made. The cops warned me that jewelry is illegal, and proceeded to go around the corner and spy on me until I made a transaction and served me with a ticket.
On December 15 the LAPD used undercover officers to entrap and record people without their knowledge. I was approached by an undercover officer, who asked the price of an item. I quoted him a price for an item I made, and as he walked away I was surrounded by three officers. They began to photograph me and my jewelry without telling me what they were doing. I asked officer Skinner what was going on. She told me to go and stand over there, for I was getting detained. She proceeded to record the entire conversation.
Venetians, why are we tolerating this police misconduct and our First Amendment rights to freedom of speech and freedom of expression being trampled right in front of our eyes?
I am an artist, jewelry maker, poet, and peace maker. I moved here in 2000, and Venice has helped me to grow as an artist. Venice helped me to simply be me. I am an artist/poet who just wants to be free.
Municipal code LAMC 42.15 is so broad that it has banned tilting your umbrella to protect yourself from the sun. It has banned jewelry and all other hand-made items that do not fit into the code’s own, original definition of art. Some white-collar people sat in a downtown L.A. board room and wrote LAMC 42.15 while being totally oblivious to Venice and what we are all about.
Native American Indians are being fined for making hand-made crafts that they’ve been making since long before the Europeans showed up. So why are there so many made-in-China dream catchers being sold on OFW? Why was I targeted for my hand-made jewelry and not the vendor next to me selling dream catchers from China and the guy on the other side of me accepting signatures for a new banking system? How much did he get paid per signature collected?
The LAPD cops, left to their own devices, will continue their selective enforcement of LAMC 42.15. Some artists selling their hand-made objects are being prosecuted, while others bringing made-in-China stuff from the downtown alley are left alone. Do we have to file yet another lawsuit to yet again try to stop police misconduct on OFW?