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.
As Venice folks might already know, a new Venice LAPD Task Force has been placed specifically for banishing homeless people from Venice, especially those people living in vehicles. This task force of LAPD officers has been giving out bogus parking ticket after bogus parking ticket, which is actually the job of Parking Enforcement (not the bogus part). But maybe this is what some people (like people that care only about their property values) want, the city budget going to highly-paid, well-armed LAPD parking enforcement officers.
These new Venice LAPD Homeless Removal Task Force Officers can be seen wearing black SWAT police outfits, arresting and towing disabled homeless people, or standing around with the many well paid city agents in the new “Dumping Task Force,” while they test the rain water in gutters.
The majority of the towing, ticketing, and arresting people “combos” are for nothing more than being homeless. Although the underlying issue for this whole homeless banishment campaign is living in a vehicle, the tickets vary.
The many bogus tickets being doled out are for violating the 72-hour parking law, posted 2-hour parking signs, existing six-foot height restriction signs, etc. But guess what? Disabled plates are exempt from those parking laws. And, incidentally, the 2-hour parking signs are a violation of the coastal act anyway.
So who knew that these disabled people’s vehicles were exempt from these parking laws? They knew. They issue the bogus parking tickets anyway in order to harass these disabled people as part of their homeless banishment plan. Banish to where? They do not care. It is so cumbersome to fight a parking ticket, and many of the people simply cannot afford to pay one ticket let alone five, that it builds up to an inevitable tow.
The Task Force officers were also found following people just because they were “Driving While Homeless.” After following one plaintiff, who was merely driving through Venice, the officers pulled her over on Lincoln Blvd. near Washington and admitted that they were following her. They told her that she has now been warned and if they see her parked in Venice they will arrest her and tow her vehicle for living in it.
There should be new signs as you enter Venice, like “Get Homeless and Get Arrested.” Kind of like “Click It or Ticket.”
These new LAPD officers were put in Venice specifically to improve so-called “quality of life,” the very words of our LAPD Chief Beck at that hate-filled September 23 Town Hall run by Councilman Bill Rosendahl. This has translated into law enforcement activity that could cause a disabled homeless person to die. That is exactly what might happen to the man with congestive heart failure that now may be living on the cold street. So cruel it is hard to believe – but so true and right here in “Your Venice.”
All this Task Force activity has made the people who nag the city council, call the LAPD, falsely report abandoned vehicles, and work with the LAPD Neighborhood Watch very happy. A few of these happy people actually show up to cheer at the towing and arrests of disabled people living in vehicles. Probably the proudest of this cheering section is Alexandria Thompson, also known as Alex, of a hate-filled blog that spews lies about those trying to actually help homeless people find housing in their own community – without arresting, torturing, towing them or sending their pets to the pound!
No one should cheer when civil rights are being violated or when harm is being done to disabled people.