Dear Beachhead Bunch,
I’m pleased to see my article on the front page of the Beachhead celebrating 100th Venice Birthday. I’ve enjoyed a long connection with the Beachhead and Venice. As a veterano, congrats on your continuing excellence… especially in the July issue.
I find your article that generally praises “Rainbow Acres” ironic. If you go to that store, make sure you do not wear any clothes that the owner finds offensive. About 6 months ago, he told me to leave his store because I wore a shirt that summarized the atrocity of the 3 western religions against women. He had no problem with the condemnation of christianity and islam but felt that jewish atrocities against women should not have been included.
I’m a 34 year-old pregnant woman (4 months along). My chihuahua is a registered psychiatric service dog. Because I do not have an obvious disability (I am not blind, for example) I am used to being questioned every time I try to take him into a business or restaurant, and if I know it will cause a problem, I ensure my dog has his vest on and I am carrying his papers. I often avoid answering questions about my disability – it can be extremely embarrassing to admit you’re a nutcase with a tenuous grasp on normality – so sometimes I just say I have epilepsy, or say he belongs to my husband. It’s uncomfortable and awkward and mostly I only use the certification for air travel, and avoid non-friendly dog places.
I have had a great experience with previous farmers markets – Topanga and Santa Monica – who have accepted my explanation the dog was a service dog without question. Today, I was going to Venice Farmers Market for the first time, and decided to carry my card and my dog’s vest to avoid any problems.
Even though I know under the ADA that I am not required to answer questions or provide proof about my disability or my dog’s service, I decided to carry my dog’s vest and certificate today so I would have no problems shopping at the large, outdoor venue where I have frequently seen unmarked animals inside the market.
I went to the market this morning, and every stall holder was kind, pleasant and served me once they saw my dog had a vest. About halfway through a man approached me and said that I had to leave the market. I
told him I had a service dog tag and certificate. He said he did not care, I had to leave. I stopped, confused and puzzled by his unpleasant and abrasive manner, and got my certificate out of my bag. I showed it to him, and he repeated I had to leave, and he would order every single stallholder not to serve me until I left. I said I was not leaving, and that he could call the police, and I would show them my certificate. I sat for twenty minutes waiting for him to call the police. He did not, and so I moved on my way and tried to continue my shopping. The man started following me extremely closely, right behind me, in an unpleasant and intimidating manner. I told him to either leave me alone and allow me to continue shopping, or call the police. The man then spoke to the stallholder I was talking to and told him not to serve me or he would lose his job. At this point I was crying and yelling at the man to stop harassing me. The man was smiling in an unpleasant manner and was obviously enjoying my discomfort. I then called the ADA, who were closed, and I then called the local police station. As I spoke to the police (you can call them to verify this at 213 928-8368), they asked me for the address of Venice Farmers Market. I asked a local stallholder for the address, and the man yelled at the stallholder not to talk to me or he would lose his job. The stallholder looked extremely scared and would not meet my eye. The policewoman on the phone overheard this and told me not to react, the man was obviously bullying me, and she would send some policemen round.
I sat outside the farmers market while the man hovered nearby speaking to all the stallholders and pointing me out. I was crying and desperately trying to reach my husband on the phone, who was at work and unavailable. I am 4 months pregnant, and was severely cramping from the emotional distress of the whole episode, and didn’t know if I could walk home with the cramps and the distress. Eventually, the police showed up, accused me of lying, and said I was lucky not to get a citation. I was, at this point, completely broken down and hysterical. I managed to find my way home alone and take some medication to calm myself. I called my doctor and reported the cramps, and was told I could only take acetaminophen, and should be on bed rest so I did not lose the baby.
I researched online and found out that the man is called JAMES (Jim) MUREZ, an executive member of the VENICE ACTION COMMITTEE. I spoke to some of the farmers, and they told me the guy is well known for being unpleasant, rude and bullying towards the farmers. They have witnessed him turning away disabled people with service animals many times previously.
I have to say I’m still shaking and upset and I will never go back to Venice Farmers Market. I’d like to know that the ADA will take this up with James Murez and stop this bullying and discrimination. The guy needs to be stopped. I thought Venice was a friendly place to live. I wish I’d never moved here.