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Noe v. City of Los Angeles: A Victory for Venice Homeless

by Peggy Lee Kennedy, Venice Justice Committee Sunday, Feb. 25, 2007 at 7:23 AM
humanrights@freevenice.org www.justice.wetnostril.net

Class Action Lawsuit settlement helps Venice homeless.

video: windows media at 3.2 mebibytes

Carol Sobel, President of the Los Angeles National Lawyer’s Guild, settled a class action lawsuit in favor of Venice homeless people whose property was seized by the Los Angeles Police and other City employees, without warrant, and then destroyed during a homeless sweep that took place back in September 2004 - just before Labor Day.

Sobel waived her legal fees, increasing the total cash settlement available to homeless people, and the cash was dispersed the first week of February 2007!

To get a portion of the settlement a proof of claim form needed to have been submitted by November 6, 2006. Deepest regrets are extended to any person affected by the sweep – and not found.

The case, Noe v. the City of Los Angeles, was partly based on written and videotaped statements from twenty-two people directly affected by the sweep along with videotape and still picture evidence of ten or more dumpsters full of the homeless people’s belongings found in Westchester (three towns south of Venice) and documented by Calvin E Moss and myself, Peggy Lee Kennedy, of Venice Food Not Bombs and the Venice Justice Committee.

Also, and very significantly, Attorney Carol Sobel of the National Lawyer’s Guild cared enough to follow through with a lawsuit providing cash settlements to Venice homeless people, which helped move some into housing situations and improved their living conditions.

The settlement further included an order regarding removal of property if not abandoned and property must now be held for ninety days. Common sense, the constitution, and the State of California seem to all say we are supposed to be protected from the police seizing our property without a warrant or probable cause.

Legally and morally, Police should not seize and destroy property in order to rid an area of it’s homeless population. Such is the situation, though.

But here’s our Justice Committee story about the Venice Sweep (Noe) Lawsuit…

Around seven in the morning, Thursday before Labor Day 2004, Abraham Butler phones my cell, “You need to get down here. There was a big sweep on the beach.” Usually, Venice Beach sweeps come just before a popular tourist holiday or a big event.

My initial response was to have Abe get the people started writing out incident reports, but despite the amount of blank incident reports handed out – no one ever seems to have one. Calvin and I arrived on the Boardwalk shortly thereafter, but people were distressed (rightly so) and trying to find out where their belongings had been taken: the Venice Beach LAPD Sub-Station, the Venice Beach County Works Yard, or the LAPD Pacific Division Station?

We handed out incident reports, gave Abe a stack to hand out, and decided to go looking for a form called Claim for Damages against the City of Los Angeles. Something suggested by [now deceased] Michael Zinzun, former member of the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense and co-founder of the Coalition Against Police Abuse (CAPA). One important fact I found out later is that once you file this form with the City, the clock starts to tick on how much time you have to file a lawsuit. The form is available downtown in the clerk’s office at City Hall, but I thought it was worth a shot to go looking for it at the LAX courthouse clerk’s office on La Cienaga near Imperial, which is much closer. So we headed for the LAX courthouse building.

The LAX clerk’s office doesn’t provide Claim for Damages forms, but the ride back turned out to be really worth the trip. When you drive from LAX to Venice, you take Sepulveda, bear left onto Lincoln and drive through Westchester. There is a park in Westchester that has a parking lot entrance at La Tijera and Lincoln, which happens to be right next to the Westchester City Council field office on Manchester. At that time our City Councilperson was Cindy Miscikowsky.

Well, that’s where we were when Calvin said, “Is that their stuff?” and there it was - the seized belongings in ten or so full dumpsters all sitting in that park - in plain view from Lincoln Blvd. A homeless person in Venice would not have thought to go looking in a park behind the Westchester City Council office three towns away from Venice, but we drove right by it. LAPD and the City workers involved with the sweep just trashed these people’s belongings. This clearly reflects an inappropriate attitude toward homeless people and their claim to fourth amendment rights, which provides all people protection from unreasonable search and seizures.

Besides things being broken, the dumpsters had already been scavenged through. Calvin videotaped for a few minutes and we rushed back to tell people where their stuff was. We also came back with a disposable camera and took pictures.

The following Sunday, Labor Day weekend, we tabled all day on the Venice Boardwalk taking incident reports and videotaping statements. One woman cried, and said how hard she was trying, how she was a client of Saint Joseph's Social Services in Venice, and how they were sending her out on interviews for housing. A few weeks later she disappeared off Venice Beach. When the settlement came in I went to Saint Joseph’s and begged someone to look in her file for contact information to help me find her, but no one bothered to call me back.

I ache for the days when Venice social services were more aligned with grassroots human rights activists and Venice residents cared more about how the poor were being treated.

The information we provided below is for social service providers, government funded non-profit organizations, City employees, the Los Angeles Police Department, Neighborhood Watch, homeowners, merchants, any person that might think it is acceptable to seize property without warrant, and anyone who just needs to brush up on a few basic rights:

The Constitution of the United States of America

Bill of Rights, Amendment IV

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

California Constitution

Article 1 Declaration Of Rights

SEC. 1. All people are by nature free and independent and have inalienable rights. Among these are enjoying and defending life and liberty, acquiring, possessing, and protecting property, and pursuing and obtaining safety, happiness, and privacy.

SEC. 7. (a) A person may not be deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of law or denied equal protection of the laws

SEC. 13. The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects against unreasonable seizures and searches may not be violated; and a warrant may not issue except on probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, particularly describing the place to be searched and the persons and things to be seized.

SEC. 20. Noncitizens have the same property rights as citizens.

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Seized Property 1

by Peggy Lee Kennedy, Venice Justice Committee Sunday, Feb. 25, 2007 at 7:23 AM
humanrights@freevenice.org www.justice.wetnostril.net

Seized Property 1...
seizedtrashedproperty1.jpg, image/jpeg, 2393x1654

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Seized Property 2

by Peggy Lee Kennedy, Venice Justice Committee Sunday, Feb. 25, 2007 at 7:23 AM
humanrights@freevenice.org www.justice.wetnostril.net

Seized Property 2...
seizedtrashedproperty2.jpg, image/jpeg, 2361x1728

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Seized Property 3

by Peggy Lee Kennedy, Venice Justice Committee Sunday, Feb. 25, 2007 at 7:23 AM
humanrights@freevenice.org www.justice.wetnostril.net

Seized Property 3...
seizedtrashedproperty3.jpg, image/jpeg, 2435x1559

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Seized Property 4

by Peggy Lee Kennedy, Venice Justice Committee Sunday, Feb. 25, 2007 at 7:23 AM
humanrights@freevenice.org www.justice.wetnostril.net

Seized Property 4...
seizedtrashedproperty4.jpg, image/jpeg, 2435x1601

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Seized Property 5

by Peggy Lee Kennedy, Venice Justice Committee Sunday, Feb. 25, 2007 at 7:23 AM
humanrights@freevenice.org www.justice.wetnostril.net

Seized Property 5...
seizedtrashedproperty5.jpg, image/jpeg, 2414x1580

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Seized Property 6

by Peggy Lee Kennedy, Venice Justice Committee Sunday, Feb. 25, 2007 at 7:23 AM
humanrights@freevenice.org www.justice.wetnostril.net

Seized Property 6...
seizedtrashedproperty6.jpg, image/jpeg, 2393x1569

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Seized Property 7

by Peggy Lee Kennedy, Venice Justice Committee Sunday, Feb. 25, 2007 at 7:23 AM
humanrights@freevenice.org www.justice.wetnostril.net

Seized Property 7...
seizedtrashedproperty7.jpg, image/jpeg, 2404x1644

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Seized Property 8

by Peggy Lee Kennedy, Venice Justice Committee Sunday, Feb. 25, 2007 at 7:23 AM
humanrights@freevenice.org www.justice.wetnostril.net

Seized Property 8...
seizedtrashedproperty8.jpg, image/jpeg, 2382x1633

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Seized Property 9

by Peggy Lee Kennedy, Venice Justice Committee Sunday, Feb. 25, 2007 at 7:23 AM
humanrights@freevenice.org www.justice.wetnostril.net

Seized Property 9...
seizedtrashedproperty9.jpg, image/jpeg, 2414x1580

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Seized Property 10

by Peggy Lee Kennedy, Venice Justice Committee Sunday, Feb. 25, 2007 at 7:23 AM
humanrights@freevenice.org www.justice.wetnostril.net

Seized Property 10...
seizedtrashedproperty10.jpg, image/jpeg, 2382x1633

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Seized Property 11

by Peggy Lee Kennedy, Venice Justice Committee Sunday, Feb. 25, 2007 at 7:23 AM
humanrights@freevenice.org www.justice.wetnostril.net

Seized Property 11...
seizedtrashedproperty11.jpg, image/jpeg, 2393x1611

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Seized Property 12

by Peggy Lee Kennedy, Venice Justice Committee Sunday, Feb. 25, 2007 at 7:23 AM
humanrights@freevenice.org www.justice.wetnostril.net

Seized Property 12...
seizedtrashedproperty12.jpg, image/jpeg, 2361x1623

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Seized Property 14

by Peggy Lee Kennedy, Venice Justice Committee Sunday, Feb. 25, 2007 at 7:23 AM
humanrights@freevenice.org www.justice.wetnostril.net

Seized Property 14...
seizedtrashedproperty13.jpg, image/jpeg, 2392x1644

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Unclaimed Money Search bill Tuesday, Mar. 06, 2007 at 8:41 PM
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