On the afternoon of Sunday, March 13, 2005 at approximately 4:45pm, on Venice Boardwalk, opposite the Bistro at Dudley Avenue, John Michel (Dr John, a well-known Venice disabled homeless activist http://www.geocities.com/drjohnmichel
) asked Barbara Peck of The Benefit Network (http://www.benefitnetwork.org
) to help him pack up his humble display laid out on the pavement in one of the 'designated' areas of the Free Speech Zone. Barbara, who had spent most of the afternoon standing in the Free Speech Zone with a placard (not in a designated area), agreed to help.
As they started to pack up, a police officer approached Dr. John and told him to leave the 'designated area'. John replied that he was already packing up to leave. At this point, another officer, Officer Putnam, approached and requested John's ID. Barbara Peck stayed next to John in order to witness what was happening and to make sure that he was being dealt with fairly by Putnam, who has, in the past, threatened to arrest him, tow his vehicle and confiscate his possessions. Putnam took his time as he jotted down notes in front of the display, during the questioning.
Barbara was still holding her double-sided placard which, on one side, advertized the upcoming March 19 peace rally and, on the other side, said "Stop, Stop, Stop the Lottery". She held the 'Stop the Lottery' side of the placard facing Putnam and continued to stand next to John. Officer Putnam, having finished his interrogation proceeded to the squad car. Thinking that the matter was over, Barbara and John's son, who was standing close by, started to pick up John's things to pack them away. Officer Putnam ordered them to stop, adding: "he (John) is still being detained". So they stopped and waited for Putnam to finish.
Putnam proceeded to bring out a camera and started taking photos. He appeared to be having a problem with the camera or was, perhaps procrastinating, Barbara later reflected. After several minutes of 'fiddling around' he finished what he was doing and put the camera away. He still had not written up a citation for John and appeared to be stalling. While this was going on Barbara continued to stand beside John - with her placard on display.
When he had finished taking the photos, Putnam procrastinated for a few minutes longer then abruptly turned to Barbara and demanded to see her ID. She refused on the grounds that she had done nothing wrong and asked why he needed to see it. Putnam replied that he was going to give her a citation for being in the 'designated area'. Barbara protested that she was there to help John pack up his things and be a witness, the display had nothing to do with her, she added. Putnam demanded again to see her ID and she refused again; at which point he threatened to arrest her if she did not produce the ID. Barbara protested again that she had done nothing wrong but Putnam responded that he was going to cite her for "protesting in a designated area" and he had photos "as evidence". At this point, Barbara Peck chose to show her ID rather than be arrested.
As Putnam started writing the citation for Barbara, he called out to another Officer to start writing a citation against John Michel who, it appears, Putnam had all but forgotten, distracted as he was by Barbara. The second Officer stepped forward and started to write up John's citation.
This is just another episode in an on-going campaign by Los Angeles City (through the LAPD) to crack down on Free Speech protestors rather than identify and eliminate commercial vendors who proliferate on Venice Boardwalk in the Free Speech Zone, in direct violation of the newly-amended Ordinance 42:15.
Both Barbara Peck and John Michel have filed separate complaints against Officer Putnam with LAPD Internal Affairs describing the way in which they were entrapped by Officer Putnam to stay in the 'designated area' (even though they were in the process of leaving), affording him the opportunity to harrass and intimidate.
The entire incident was video taped by Venice Food Not Bombs. The video will be used together with other footage as evidence of LAPD tactics of entrapment, harrassment, intimidation and discrimination against Free Speech protestors on Venice Boardwalk.