Twelve jurors decided on Tuesday that Skid Row Activist David Busch was not guilty of criminal charges --for attempting to use the pay phone in the public lobby of downtown Los Angeles' Standard Hotel.
Busch has been homeless for over 14 years, and has started several ongoing L.A. food lines for hundreds of homeless people --with nothing but shopping carts, and while sleeping on doorsteps --and is currently leading weekly Saturday demonstrations against police brutality on Skid Row: http://www.orgsites.com/ca/wd
States Busch about the trial, "It really was ludicrous harassment; and the jury simply agreed. I was charged with 'Trespass-Interfering With Business' for going into the hotel for about the 6th time, without incident, to use the pay phone, which is in a public area.”
“Like that is a crime?"
Says Busch about the trial, “This case, however, does represent just the sort of extremity that downtown business and the LAPD are going to in L.A. right now to deny homeless people here our human rights and our civil rights. This case should have never come trial. The Downtown Standard Hotel, where all this took place, has a lobby that is open to everybody --but I believe they just wanted to say now, ‘everybody but the homeless.’”
"How it is that I could be charged with 'interfering with business' --when it was the hotel’s security which interfered with my attempt to do business at that phone, is really just one of the Orwellian-type excuses that they are now using against us homeless people here: to drive us all out of downtown L.A."
Continues Busch, "At the trial, on Friday, the security guard of the Standard also stated that the lobby was off limits to everybody but ‘patrons' --but then stated that anybody even entering the lobby for business was a 'patron,' and yet, then attempted to claim that I wasn't one, for some reason. And this is even though I had, also prior to this, made one collect call from that phone that over $25.00 dollars was billed for."
"There never was ever anybody else waiting to use the phone, either. It’s really just any excuse that they can make up to arbitrarily discriminate against homeless people --and even if we aren't causing any disturbances,” Busch avers.
“Today homeless people won,” is how Busch summed up his victory.
Adds Busch “I have not decided what I am going to do next –several hotels downtown are much less discriminatory towards the homeless, so they are the better models of how hotels can easily be fair to everybody.”
Says the activist, “I don’t, really, either, hold any extreme animus towards the Downtown Standard --or even the hotel security guard who blocked me from using the phone; I just felt it was very important to stand up as a homeless person; and I am also looking for suggestions from anybody on how to make sure that this all turns out the best for everybody. I even actually think the hotel security guard himself was tricked by these BID guards --who respond to businesses downtown on these sorts of calls --they, these rinky-dink corporate police, who attacked me that night, were poorly trained, rude, confrontational, and created a huge disturbance and threatened to mace me when they arrived at the hotel. All I asked was to remain seated where I and the guard had agreed I could sit until the police arrived. Later on, after cuffing me up, and all their threats and force against me --they then told the hotel security guard, who basically was just standing by –‘this is your arrest.’ I was also extremely disappointed by the way the LAPD downtown denied me my rights to also make my own arrest as a citizen that night. I think all LAPD cared about were supposed ‘property rights’ that night --not human rights.”
Prior to this incident, Busch had been taken into police custody or arrested scores of times, and been represented both by the ACLU, and lawyers with the National Lawyers Guild; who've defended him against several trumped up anti-homeless charges; but the activist has never been convicted of breaking any law, except on the first night he was homeless, in 1992, when he says he was forced to break a bank window at 9 at night in Orange County, in order to get shelter in the only County facility available that night to homeless people, the jail--where he would not have been coerced to attend a religious service.
Even though the incident was over 14 years old, and the activist has been convicted of breaking no law since, when Busch simply stated on the witness stand that "he took care to protect his reputation under the law," the prosecuting attorney in the case immediately demanded making that 14 year old incident an issue at trial.
Summing up, Busch states this about the politics of his newest incident; “Right now, downtown ,Mayor Villaraigosa and Councilwoman Jan Perry are demanding criminalization tactics for almost all the homeless people here. While claiming to be ‘liberals,’ they are leading in this massive push to criminalize all of us here --on any charge they can get: jay-walking; sleeping past 6 a.m.; petty parole violations; littering; and they are even attempting to throw all homeless people they can entrap downtown, those entitled to drug treatment, into the State Prisons. It is the largest mass criminalization of homeless people in the history of L.A.. According to the Los Angeles Coalition to End Hunger and Homelessness, as many as 4,000 people have been cuffed up, searched, had property seized, and then told that they weren't being arrested --but then have been issued misdemeanor tickets that they can’t afford to pay --and which go to warrant, and then get them arrested. All this, and more, is really in order to just send a message loud and clear: if you are homeless, and in downtown Los Angeles, you are going to be hounded; you are going to be harassed --and in other cases you also are going to be beaten, or framed, or brutalized, by LAPD. “
“And you will be denied entrance even into the public areas of downtown businesses, if you dare even come down here anymore,” asserts Busch about the current situation.
Adds Busch, “So I refused as firmly and as decently as I could to back down from my right to be treated equally at that hotel -- and we Skid Row activists in the group I helped found here are simply not going to stop our weekly protests either --until these rights-violating police sweeps stop.”
“And I do believe that downtown LAPD officers are especially encouraging harassment of homeless people now by downtown businesses here now –by refusing to stand up for our rights –when we are clearly being discriminated against just for our being homeless. If LAPD informed businesses that it would take a more even hand in these sorts of incidents, I am sure that this whole thing would never have happened. It’s incredibly hard, when you are homeless to find things like phones that work; or an open bathroom, or a restaurant where they do not discriminate –LAPD is actively encouraging these human rights vilolations against us every time they deny us equal rights.”
“But twelve average people declared today, after deliberating for just one hour and 10 minutes, that I had broken no law; so I really think the District Attorney, the City Attorney, the LAPD, and Chief William Bratton should be listening to the people today also.”
Busch was prosecuted at the trial by Giszele Fernandez, of the District Attorney’s office.
Information about the activist group WorkingDemocracy!’s Saturday Vigils can be found here: http://www.orgsites.com/ca/wd
At trial, Busch is being represented by Public Defender Teri Yin. It was the young attorney’s second trial.
Adds Busch about the city policies that were involved, “This whole trial is really just the sort of harassment of a homeless person that really never should happen. But forcing me to go to trial on this trumped up arrest is the sort of extremes that public officials in Los Angeles will now go to --and this is under the so-called ‘progressive’ politics of a Democrat --Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa."
Explains Busch, "In Santa Monica, in 1998, when I faced similar charges there, the city, under then City Manager Susan McCarthy, and Police Chief James Butts, retrained all police officers there to advise proprietors of public accommodations that attempting to exclude people simply because they were homeless was not supported by law. In 2000, similarly, LAPD West Division accepted my citizen's arrest of the head of the Getty Museum's Security Department, Michael Moore, for attempting to exclude me because I was homeless. My attorney at that time was Robert Myers, the former City Attorney of Santa Monica --who was fired from his job prior to representing me for going so far as to refuse to write any anti-homeless laws in Santa Monica whatsoever. After my arrest of Moore at the Getty was supported by LAPD, the museum formally agreed to retrain their entire Security Staff in homeless sensitivity training. “
States Busch, “But that citizen’s arrest by me also took place when James Hahn was City Attorney of Los Angeles: his office refused to prosecute me; and helped convince the Getty Museum of my rights. Hahn, also, afterwards when he became Mayor, and other city officials even before him, had a long policy being significantly more respectful of the rights of homeless people --because they recognized that we are living in crisis situations here; where our basic right to housing is being denied; and we are primary targets for community frustrations and hate. Meanwhile, under Villaraigosa, according to the Los Angeles Coalition to End Hunger and Homelessness, now, despite Villaraigosa’s claims to be
leading in anti-homelessness, for instance, we have almost a complete standstill in any city progress towards the City's official 'Bring LA Home' 10-year commitment to eradicate the need of people to sleep on the street."
"Moreover, Villaraigosa, in league with Perry, is actually leading in what I would call a homeless hate campaign here under the guise of "The Safer Cities Initiative" --to drive us from downtown into surrounding communities without even providing them with adequate support first --even while he poses for incredible visual stunts: like washing the feet of the homeless on Thanksgiving; and making sure that the TV cameras get notice of it."
Concludes Busch, “This Mayor is really just deceiving many on homelessness. I am not looking for publicity --but what I am looking for here is for the law and the media to continually step in however, and pull the mask of hypocrisy off this Mayor, and Police Chief William Bratton, and Councilwoman Jan Perry, and also City Attorney Rocky Delgadillo’s distracting ‘dumping’ lawsuits; and declare that this city cannot waste more and more police and court time on these sorts of false and trivial arrests and misdirected lawsuits simply to roll over for rich downtown developer interests at the expense of our basic rights and also the needs of L.A.’s outlying communities; which are not yet capable of handling all of the downtown's homeless now being driven there."
"Finally, too, I just strongly believe that in a democracy we have a duty to constantly advocate for our most basic human rights --like that of us all to be kindly accommodated in these public accommodations: and for our right simply as people, at all times, for housing."
STOP THE SWEEPS RALLIES CONTINUE THIS SATURDAY; 1 p.m.., Feb. 24, 2007
WHEN: This Saturday, Feb. 24th
Starting at 1 p.m.
WHERE: Gathering will be in front of LAPD's Skid Row (Central City East)
LAPD Division Headquarters