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Free Venice Beachhead archives selected articles 1980-81

Beachhead Archives 1982

Beachhead Archives 1984

Street performers

30 Years Ago This Month in the Free Venice Beachhead

Tale of the Fox

Windward Ave.


People Articles



30 Years Ago in Call Someplace Paradise and/or Ghost Town

Venice in Books A-C

Venice in Books D-K

Venice in Books L-P

Venice in Books Q-Z

Quotations about Venice

Venice in Magazines and other ephemeral sources

1981 Resistance Celebration Schedule

1981 Resistance Celebration Articles

Birth of Venice:
old-timey magazines

1914-1916 Part 1

1914-1916 Part 4

1914-1916 Part 5

John Hamilton

Destiny's Consent by
Laura Shepard

Lions and Gondolas

Poem about Venice Beachhead

Rana Ayzeren

Tales of the Blue Meanie by Allan Cole

Another Chapter from Tales of the Blue Meanie by Allan Cole

"Brick" Garrigues

The Spectre

Venice Historical Society

1969 Police Riots

Jack the Liar

Free Venice Beachhead
Archives 1983

Webslave's note: Each month, back when I lived in Venice, someone from the Beachhead Collective would drop off a bundle of a hundred copies at my door, and I would distribute them house-to-house around Oakwood. My way of continuing to be a Beachhead volunteer is to resurrect and re-type selected articles from its past (pre-computer) issues, for which the Beachhead has graciously granted permission.

Mary Lou Johnson
April 1983 #160

When I first moved to the canals some eight years ago, life there was a hotbed of activity. Each day, it seemed, there was a tree to be saved from a chainsaw, a house to be guarded from a bulldozer; a duck's neck to be extricated from a plastic six-pack holder; and there were meetings, meetings, meetings. At that time, the Venice Town Council was operating full-tilt boogie, and there were functioning area councils as well as committees and task forces for everything from community gardens to "streaking" the volleyball game. (God! Wasn't "streaking" a trip?) We had meetings to plan meetings. As the Marinating of Venice progressed with with subsequent escalation of rents and loss of housing to speculators, the indefatigable folks who were calling and attending these meetings were dispersed; the Town Council died of attrition, and the meetings fell by the wayside.

The a couple of years ago a huge meeting of canal residents was called. Now, let me backtrack a bit. Issues have come and gone in the canals, but there has been one issue that has been a constant. DUCKS! Some love 'em, some hate 'em, but no one who lives here can ignore 'em. They squawk early in the morning; they shit on what's left of the sidewalks; they make you giggle when they dive in a group to feed off the bottom with their rear ends stuck up in the air; and they have wonderful little fluffy ducklings to warm your heart as the early spring warms your bones. People from all over come to the canals to feed the ducks - and a damn good thing that they do as their natural feeding habitats have been depleted by rampant development. Among these people was a concerned group of young folks from some religious group who brought huge bags of bread and faithfully fed the ducks rain or shine. The young women wore long old-fashioned dresses and an air of piety that was almost palpable. Charming! Then, as spring arrived, an ugly rumor swept the canals. They were smashing the eggs!!! The rationale for the seemingly vicious act was that they were saving the baby ducklings from being eaten by the cat and dog inhabitants of the canals. Not too strange when you consider the example set by our government in Vietnam with their "burn the village to save it" credo.

Anyway, we were all pretty upset. Anyone who has lived here any length of time realizes that these no-longer-migratory ducks need to be thinned out or over-duckulation becomes a problem. Too many ducks - too much duckshit - too much coliform bacteria - pollution of the canals - closing them off to the public. (Remember Myrtle Wilson and her on-going crusades against the filthy, contaminated canals? May she rest in peace in some duck-free heaven somewhere.) But smashing the eggs!

Then, horror of horrors, a holocaust of dismembered duck carcasses came floating down the Grand Canal! Heads, feet, viscera and other hideous remains in large quantities. A count was taken and it was estimated that the number of mutilated fowl was somewhere in the forties. People were angry. "Duck Snuffer Stalks the Canals" was emblazoned in the local papers. And a meeting was called.

The meeting overflowed the house, out into the yard, then the sidewalks and alleys. An official from the State Game & Wildlife Commission was the featured speaker. He explained that since the ducks were no longer wild they did not come under his jurisdiction. They also did not meet the criteria for domestic pets, so no-one had jurisdiction. No-status ducks. Funny ducks, as one of our new residents designates them. All in-bred (no pun intended), addicted to Wonder Bread and Cheetos and prone to perverse sexual behavior. Have you ever watched ducks doing IT? It's all rape and gang-bang. After the guest speaker finished, the meeting was opened for discussion. Committees were formed, phone trees set up (I wouldn't give my phone number. Don't trust the likes of Reed Monroe with that kind of information), delegations to our City Councilperson proposed and acts of violence and intimidation suggested. Someone stated, "Well, the people who've lived in the canals before knew how to take care of business, and I just want everyone to know that I've got a gun and I'm prepared to use it." - Wow! and they called us radicals!

I was kind of amused by the whole thing (except when my dog decided to chase a duck right in front of the Game and Wildlife officer) and also pleased that people were coming together no matter what the issue and I left the meeting with a warm nostalgic glow.

As I was walking home with my friend doing the usual meeting post-mortem, he stopped me in my tracks by saying, "I know who the duck-snuffer is."

"Tell me. Tell me."

"Can you keep a secret?"


"Well, I'll tell you anyway. Do you know Abigail?"

"Sure. She made a great speech tonight about the canals belonging to everyone and how she likes it when people from all over come here to enjoy them."

Now, Abigail is one of Venice's many shopping cart people and also a lover of cats and dogs whom she harbors in illegal numbers in her little Grand Canal cottage. Her next door neighbor also maintains a large number of pets. So it seems that Abigail had poked through the garbage of one of the proliferating ritzy-pitzy eateries and had come upon a huge quantity of what was left over from the preparation of the Duck l'Orange or whatever was being proffered that evening for the delectation of the nouveaux. She brought it home for the animals and when it got a bit rank, unceremoniously dumped it into the Grand Canal.

Ah, Venice politics.

I've kept my mouth shut about this for a couple of years, but thought I should share it with the Beachhead for April Fool's Day. It's all true - every word of it except Abigail's name which has been changed to protect the guilty.

Showdown at the O.K. Canals
June 1983 #162

Dear Beachhead,

Several years ago while living out of state, we spend a short vacation with friends of ours who lived in the canals. We fell in love with the area. The country environment in the heart of a big city seemed a perfect arrangement for our needs as a working couple hoping to start a family. Our dream was to come back to the canals and buy a home. Some time ago this dream was realized.

Other reasons for our wanting to live here were the sense of community we had experienced, the diversity of life-styles that co-existed so amicably, the naturalness of the surroundings, and the lack of pretension and one-upness that were exhibited by the folks who lived in these modest homes. Also, the canals had a low crime incidence which belied its reputation.

What we have since experienced is quite disillusioning. Homes straight out of suburbia hogging all available space surrounded by ornamental plants proliferate. The people who live in these homes seem fearful of the general public who are drawn to the peaceful atmosphere of the canals. Law and order is the watchword. When we visited our friends, the canals had an air of sanctuary ... now it is exclusivity. The attitude of sharing has been replaced by a paranoia of "them" coming here for whatever reason. (Unless you're a real estate person with troops of prospective clients in designer clothes stepping out of their Mercedes.) Residents with living problems or parking problems are intimidated by new owners who believe that their "view" is of paramount importance. We can't understand their mentality. Using the leverage of what is legal, they have coerced the city into enforcing long-ignored prohibitions against parking in city owned lots. They have also pressured absentee owners of vacant lots to withdraw parking privileges.

Parties are given with red-coated attendants providing valet parking. Showplace homes are lit up like juke boxes intruding on the soft dark peace of the moon on the canals.

There are clean up campaigns complete with uniformed security officers and TV coverage. (Free advertising for the developers and speculators.) There are neighborhood watch meetings. There are placards on homes that state "Armed Response." And there is a constantly escalating crime rate.

We are sad. This is not what we worked hard and saved for. In the words of the poet, Langston Hughes, "A dream deferred is like a raisin in the sun."

We would like our names withheld because we feel that somehow we would experience some sort of retaliation.

July 1983 #163

Lots of Hard Luck
by Loise Nevelle

"We want to get rid of the riff-raff in Venice," declares Donna Etzen. "The people who live on the public parking lot have a criminal mentality. They have to toilet on the lot, they urinate on the lot, they have created crime in Venice, they are dope peddlers, they are not renters, we are renters and have a right to get rid of them."

These statements refer to the homeless who have parked their cars, vans, and campers at the foot of Rose Ave. All these statements can be proved false. But because of these statements to the police and to the press the parking lot people are being harassed and even evicted.

First, criminal mentality? This writer whose window overlooks the parking lot has found these people who have taken shelter here against hard times to be more regulated generally than many of those in the apartment buildings nearby. The van people have been subjected to some harassment by the police, their cherished dogs, valuable not only for emotional comfort when there is little comfort to be found, but for protection from those who traditionally victimize the indigent at the beach have been impounded because of the leash law. And yet these people "keep their cool" as best they can. They have nowhere else to go. Fees at the parking lot are less than those in trailer courts. They gladly pay the fees. Thus they are "renters."

No toilet on the lot? This is the most patently foolish statement. The rest rooms have been there for years as full facilities and have not disappeared lately.

Parking lot people have created crime in Venice? The Etzens have been in Venice for 7 years. In all that time have they not noticed that Venice is classified as a high crime area and has been for years before these homeless settled here in the last year? For that matter all of LA is a high crime area. Burglaries, purse snatchings, and assaults are part of the LA scene, in fact a part of life in any US city. They are not a new phenomenon.

Dope peddlers on the lot? A longtime Venice resident and former Venice businessman now temporarily living on the lot states uncatagorically that he has never heard of a dope peddler on the parking lot. But after all isn't "dope peddlers" a common slur for those who wish to slander Venice, one of the good ole clichés so often thrown around?

All of these accusations might be considered merely silly, and ignored except for the fact that they have resulted in harassment and victimization of those whose lives are already difficult, people who are doing their best to cope with hard times. And these are hard times.

Should such people be insulted and driven off? "No," said Senator Alan Cranston in a recent speech. He declared that persons forced to live in their vehicles on public parking lots should neither be forced to leave nor towed away because they have no place else to go.

It is easy for some people from their tiny pinnacle of safety to look down on those who have less than they. Others don't want to look at those who have less; it seems to frighten them. Still others who have lost their little pinnacle of security due to conditions in the US today have become suddenly aware of harsh realities they never expected to have to face.

What caused the Etzens to mount their determined campaign? They were burglarized. They say they identified the two burglars as persons living on the parking lot. Persona who now no longer live there. For this reason they declare EVERYONE should be removed from the parking lot. A peculiar point of law. If two people in a community commit an offense the whole community should be removed? I think if this were lawful we would probably have no US cities remaining. It would be more effective than an atom bomb.

In addition Donna Etzen and her female friends apparently have a habit of walking alone at night with the predictable result... assault.

When told that no woman should walk alone at night anywhere in LA, Donna Etzen seemed surprised. "But that shouldn't be," she replied. Of course it shouldn't be but it is a fact of life we live with today in LA and all metropolitan centers. This is not a new fact, it did not come about in the last year when the car people moved to the parking lot. Yet the Etzens blame this on them also.

Venice has always prided itself on "unity in diversity." It is one of the few places where people of all cultures, colors, and ages and economic circumstances live together and communicate with each other. That is why many of us love Venice. It gives opportunities other places don't give. We don't want everyone we see to mirror our own personal lifestyle. We don't want to eliminate those who do not. If we did that, Venice would be like every other urban community.

Some people find it hard to understand.

And there is something else some people find hard to understand. On Ocean Front Walk on Sunday a man sat on the grass playing his guitar and singing, "Do you want to know what it's like to be homeless?' , he sand, "Do you know? I do, I do." That is something some people don't know, don't want to know, and don't have the imagination to try to know.

They should.

Duck Napper Nabbed
by Richard and Eileen Quintana

This is the Canals - Venice, California. A relatively peaceful community of people, dogs, cats, chickens, rabbits, geese and ducks. Of late the duck population, as you may have heard and/or noticed, has been drastically and mysteriously depleted. Of several theories advanced with regard to the Case of the Disappearing Ducks, the most popular seemed to be Duck-Napper(s). So the community went on the alert - watching for person or persons unknown luring innocent dicks away from their natural habitat for who knows what dastardly purpose.

On Saturday morning, June 11, 1983, the unofficial duck alert proved most effective. One resident of Howland Canal noticed a mysterious stranger with a bagful of popcorn and bread coaxing unsuspecting ducks into a burlap sack. The duck napper took off with his catch and our alert citizen gave chase, along with other neighbors whose attention was attracted.

The suspect made his get-away on foot up Howland Canal, but unfortunately for him yet another alert resident, Richard Quintana, was on the watch and noticing a stranger with popcorn, bread and a wriggling burlap sack - stopped the would-be duck napper to question him. Our mysterious stranger with the still wriggling burlap sack was not amenable to any questions and in fact attempted to escape again. He was however unsuccessful. While an interested crowd gathered Mr. Quintana held the suspect while another resident called the police.

As our duck napper laid on the ground, he must surely have been regretting his crimes. The crowd grew larger, surrounding him. Teenagers on skateboards were circling him, around and around and around. Babies waved their bottles at him angrily. He heard someone say, "Maybe we should just string him up by his toes right here." A contingent of kids set out to look for the getaway vehicle for more stolen ducks. He anxiously asked if someone had really called the cops and when were they going to be there. I think he would have called them himself given the opportunity.

The police did arrive. The suspect was charged with violation of Section 2002 of the Fish and Game code (poaching) and his bail was set at $1000.

Duck nappers and other insidious characters beware! Our community is on the alert!

Free Venice; On Stage or Off
by Rick Davidson

A few weeks back I was asked by a young friend why some entertainers applaud with the audience when they have concluded their performances. My explanation was that the performers and the audience represent two parts of a whole. Thus the performer's applause recognizes the wholeness of the relationship. It's not a one-way street where performers give and audiences receive; both participate in the process; both give and receive.

Not getting a positive response I shared the experience I had many times when I was a partner in a little theatre in Hollywood. While working backstage with the lights, sound or just cleaning up, I noticed the tremendous difference between workshop performances, rehearsal performances, and performances in front of live audiences, especially in front of "great" audiences. The difference in front of "great" audience was truly amazing; the performers were higher than heaven allows. Energy became visible. Such transformations are profound. That energy is the synergy effect created by the relationship between performer(s) and audience. Every actor of actress that I have known, worth their price of admission, agrees. Without that living mass we call audience performers are merely acting out the ol' philosopher's question: if a tree falls on a deserted island where there's no one to hear the crash, is there a sound?

Well, my young friend said that she was not too philosophical and she wasn't all that interested in theater. Since she was an activist in the anti-nuclear movement, I tried another experience on her.

Going back 10 to 15 years, say 1968-73, particularly about 1970. It's a quiet warm Saturday afternoon in the Venice Canals. Well, quiet if you discount the rock music competing with classical, barking dogs, fighting cats, and numerous backyard political, personal, social yelling matches. Now if I (or John Haag, Bob Wells, Jane Gordon, Steve Clare, Judy Goldberg, Ron Guenther, Mary Jane, John Heller, or many others) were to walk to the center of the Canal Community, like the vacant lot at Howland Ct. and Dell (later the site of one of our short-lived vestpocket parks) and begin ringing a bell and shouting, "Free Venice, Free Venice - everyone come," in no time people would pour out of their homes, garages, yards, alleys, to see why someone was calling their name - Free Venice.

Now when they arrive at the vacant lot in the heart of their community they see me (or any of those others mentioned above) standing on a soap box. I use soap box because it's politically poetic; more than likely it would be an old beer case. Anyway, there I am, or one of the others, still ringing this goddamn bell as I explain that we need everyone's support; there's a bulldozer ready to knock down the little house at Howland Ct. and Eastern Canal. You know that before I finish the 'come on, we need your help,' the crowd, the mass, the people, the Canal Community is off and running with me trying hard to catch up.

Now if my explanation for ringing the bell was a little more compound or complex, say that so and so was in the Venice jail for harassing a cop and we need bodies for a picket line - it might take another minute to explain the incident and why the harassment was necessary. Then I would guess that 80 to 90% of the mass would be off to encircle the jail, with all the appropriate signs of course. It's nice to see the ol' jail being used the way it is today, but that's beside the point... isn't it?

Anywho, attempting to complete the analogy let's move along in Venice history to say 1983. Once again say I, or any of those others, walk to the center of the canals and ring a bell and yell, "Free Venice!" Some people might come out if I yelled long enough. Yeah, they'd come out to see what the hell was all the racket; what the hell is going on; who the hell is this jerk ringing that goddamn bell? Lots of questions. That's great. We want people to think. And when they get to where I'm standing on my soap box, or Perrier carton, I tell them their support is needed to stop the City from removing the little houses in the median strip of Venice Blvd. "Why's the City doing that?" I hear someone ask. "To make room for a new bus terminal." I respond. Next we're in a discussion as to the need of a new bus terminal, cleaning up those shacks, etc. etc. etc. And what about the people living in the little houses? "That's beside the point...."

Returning to their backyard cook-outs, I hear some questioning why the City's removing the concrete sidewalks and replacing them with asphalt... "something should be done to stop them..., but most are silent as they leave me to my soap box and my goddamn bell and an echo.... FREE VENICE, Free Venice, free ve.....

What's the difference in the years? Where has the energy gone? Where's the community? Where's the whole? Nothing but parts, bits and pieces. Nor do the parts fit any more. In the '60s and early '70s there was the hope that the myth of Free Venice could be realized - a free Venice community on the site of Miami Beach West? absurd of course. Still the idea of community pervaded Venice of America - a whole community was the hope in everyone's heart... part of that myth was trying to take care of everyone and anyone - the "good" as well as the "bad."

Energy comes from wholeness; power from community. It must be a wholeness and a community that includes everyone; not just the educated, not just the beautiful - everyone. That is what applauding is all about. Can you imagine that under capitalism? We have exactly what capitalism promises; locked doors, barred windows, car alarms, guard dogs, police helicopters,.... we must at any cost protect our private property... There is an alternative.... on stage or off.

The Case of the Disappearing Benches
by Carol Fondiller

October 1983

At one time there were sixty of them.

They were double benches. That is, one could sit and face the west and watch the ocean, or one could sit and face the east and watch the human parade that strolled, shuffled and bumped up and down the Ocean Front Walk.

I always ended up perched on the top of the bench with my fee on the bench seat.

If one sat there long enough, and I did, friends and cronies would collect and we'd spend the day at the bench.

Sixty sturdy benches like duennas at a cotillion, strung out from Navy to 18th St. offering aid and comfort to those with blisters, broken skateboards, too many packages, too much sun and alcohol, too much time on their hands, and not enough money in their pockets. Postcards printed in the late '20s, when Venice was annexed to the City of Los Angeles showed double benches on the Ocean Front Walk.

In World War II, the Avalon Ballroom was open 24 hours a day and the little trams ran up and down the O.F.W. till 2:00 a.m., the benches with the seal of the City of Los Angeles branded on their cement haunches supported soldiers, sailors and shipyard workers as they massaged their feet, smoked, made out, and/or looked at the moon or the sun. Venice was swing-shift city.

In the late '50s, when I first visited Venice, the last Bingo parlor was being closed down.

Between Navy and Marine streets were coffee shops, souvenir shops, newspaper kiosks, bars, and lots of people day and night. My friends and I would walk and talk and sit on the benches.

**Lady Chatterley's Lover was not allowed to be read or published in the good and pure U.S. of A.

Herb Caen, San Francisco columnist portmanteaued the word "Beatnik" to describe the men and women who dressed in black, played guitars, listened to jazz and wrote poetry that was street language one could get arrested for. The benches were used as rallying points and meeting places after the Ocean Front Improvement Association, headed by that seeker after equality, truth and beauty. Werner Scharff, pressured landlords, the police and the Los Angeles Department of Health and Safety to bulldoze and/or close down every coffee house in Venice. They succeeded.

Curt Simon, Werner Schaarf and other property owners, smaller property owners who thought they were in the same league as Werner & Co. tried to get the Ocean Front Walk closed down at 10:00 p.m. But it was pointed out that the Ocean Front Walk was a public thoroughfare and the benches and pagodas were on the public walkway, and such a curfew would be unconstitutional, or something like that. Every spring, the benches would be painted, and broken slats would be replaced.

The benches with the seal of the City of Los Angeles had withstood rain, sun, salt air, being moved, sat in, humped on and vandalized for nearly 40 years. When the Roller Skating Craze literally hit Venice, the old benches were moved to the grassy area west of the walk to ease access for the skaters. They were moved carelessly and cruelly without regard for age or condition of previous servitude as they were dumped on soft uneven earth, or moved to the middle of Ocean Front Walk where they were destroyed even faster, as skaters used them for jumping off places, and people shoved them back to the cement in an effort to restore a feeling of community. Nobody wanted to sit in the middle of Ocean Front Walk. It had all the charm of waiting on a traffic island in the middle of Lincoln Blvd. in Marina del Rey.

With the advent of Proposition 13, the benches were no longer repaired and gussied up every spring. During the speculation boomlet of the mid-'70s, a new business organization called the Venice Beach Association was convinced that Venice would be the new Gold Coast. Some of the members who owned or leased Ocean front businesses were appalled at the fact that people could sit on the benches for free and didn't have to buy $3.00 drinks in order to sit down and enjoy the beach. The Venice Beach Association declared war on "the over-age hippies on Welfare" as they described the people who stared back at their customers. Some of the members of the V.B.A. boasted at meetings how they moved benches away from their establishments, how they broke the benches to prevent the undesirables from discomfiting the trendy folk who came to Venice because it was quaint and raffinee.

People saw frayed but still usable benches being hauled away by City or County trucks.

There were ten benches left between Navy and 18th Street. There used to be approximately 60 benches.

Carol Berman called Councilwoman Russell's office.

How about bus benches with advertisements on them?

... Well...better than nothin, but...

She got in touch with Pam Emerson at the Coastal Commission.

Didn't the Coastal Commission mention that amenities were to be provided for the public, and shouldn't benches be considered public amenities - and since there were benches, and benches had always been used by residents and visitors, shouldn't those benches be considered essential to the welfare and enjoyment of all people including those people who couldn't afford $2.00 cups of coffee?

Ms. Emerson said she'd look into it. A few weeks later she called back and told Ms. Berman that the Coastal Conservancy had no money for benches. However, she came up with the idea of having someone who was building a condominium on 18th St. donate money for a bench in lieu of an extra parking space. Ms. Kelly Doyle of Sail Realty suggested the idea to her clients. They loved the concept and were willing to pay for it, but couldn't they be like the old double benches?


No one in the City seemed to know who was responsible for the upkeep and replacement of benches, and whether or not privately funded benches could be put on publicly owned property, and whether the property was County or City owned, and whether the County or the City would be responsible for the benches after they were installed. Ms. Emerson called Ms. Berman to inform her that watching the City and County bureaucracies trying to escape each other while entangled in each other's coils was not a pretty sight.

With the help of Carol Shapiro, aide to Councilwoman Russell's office, Ms. Emerson wended her way through Recreation & Parks (City), through Street Maintenance, Bench Division (City) where she was stalled for a while in the Department of Benches and Banners (City.) For a while, the Case of the Orphan Benches was tossed between Recreation & Parks (City) and Parks & Recreation (County.)

Ms Emerson found in a contract between the County of L.A. and the City of L.A., that the County is responsible for all property west of the Ocean Front Walk, and the City of L.A. is responsible for property including the Ocean Front Walk. The benches were on No Man's Land. A clause in the contract stated that the County was responsible for the benches.

Craig Woodell of County Department of Harbors and Beaches looked through the Bench Catolog - something approximating the old benches was found, but they cost $500.00. Well, that's that. Scratch that idea. A few weeks later, Ms. Emerson reported that Craig Woodell found the original mold for the old benches. He'd arranged for the men at Wayside Honor Farm to manufacture 10 benches at a cost of $125.00 each. The new benches have been placed. Most of them are on Rose Ave, north, in front of the Israel Levin Senior Citizen Center.

Unfortunately, $1,250.00 is all the County can afford for the benches.

However, there is an opportunity for individuals, organizations, and businesses to donate money - tax deductible - to a fund for the benches. One bench will cost $150.00 (costs of materials are going up.)

What a lovely idea if all the take-out places on the Ocean Front Walk would plow back some of the money they make from the beach back into the community and make it more comfortable for their customers.

What a lovely idea if all those people who want restaurants but have no parking could provide some benches in lieu of some parking spaces.

For more information, call Craig Woodell at Department of Beaches & Harbors at 823---- or 870---- Ask about the Viewing Beach Fund.





August 1983 #164

Media White Wash
All Black and White?
July's Beachfront "Riot"

by Moe Stavnezer

While a number of Venice people were involved in preventing a skirmish between pro-Israelis and pro-Palestinians along Ocean Front Walk, a major battle between beachgoers and the Police was shaping up on July 10th.

It was a hot weekend, the first real taste of summer this year, and the beach was overflowing with strollers, sight-seers and people out for a day away from the broiling inner city. The Pavilion/Windward Ave. area has become a major gathering place in Venice, offering as it does, a place where roller skaters can strut their stuff, the BBQ area and what seem like hundreds of vendors offering all manner of wares, from jewelry to hot-dogs.

According to all press accounts and most of the people I talked to, including the police, a marijuana arrest precipitated what is referred to as melee, a riot, or a major disturbance. Others to whom I have spoken say that a fight, between a white man and a black man was the spark that ignited the violence. It is possible that both events contributed to calling in around 100 law enforcement people mainly LAPD but also including Sheriffs and one or two other police departments according to people I've talked to. No matter what it is called by whom, there is little doubt that it was a major problem to have attracted so many police.

The importance of the event becomes all the more apparent listening to eye witnesses and to some people from the press. Though there remains a good deal of confusion about what happened, there is quite a bit of agreement that:

1 There was a great deal of provocation on the part of both the police and the people in the crowd

2 The police used a great deal of force breaking up the crowd

3. Most of the people in the crowd injured by the police were black though a number of white people were involved in the melee

4. The press did an inadequate job covering the event and, especially, in following up its aftermath.

Only a few people deny that the crowd was feeling hostile toward the police as the drama unfolded late that Sunday afternoon. The crowd pelted the police cars and the police with bottles and stones in reaction to the marijuana arrest (which was elevated from possession to "for sale" subsequently). The police deny any over-reaction to this provocation and, in fact, have even denied that they used their "batons" to hit people Witnesses, on the other hand, report at least 3 instances of the police administering severe beatings, one of which resulted in a man going into convulsions. There are many witnesses who reported that the police waded into the crowd at various locations and hit people indiscriminately after giving them very short notice and absolutely no reasons for having to leave the area. A couple witnesses reported that at least 2 people were beaten because they argued about having to leave the area since they did not understand what was going on.

The written press accounts don't make matters any clearer. In one instance two papers, the Outlook and the Times quote the same police officer as making exactly opposite statements about the use of batons. The Times reports that Lt. Moen said, "I didn't see any beatings I saw no batons being used. There was no riot." The Outlook carries this quote from the same officer, "I didn't see any beating. I saw batons being used." This reporter was unable to reach the officer to verify either version. In fact, this reporter was transferred to many different extensions but was never able to reach any officer authorized to speak about the incident who was actually at the scene. The only LAPD person who talked to me was Officer Rose in Community Relations. He characterized all the press coverage as "sensationalized" anti-police. After reading the Times, Outlook and Examiner stories it is difficult for me to understand that viewpoint.

Contact with a Times writer provided me with one important bit of information. The original Times story did contain some reports of police beatings, as well as opposite impressions, both were cut out of the story "for reasons of space." That writer hung up on me when I tried to find out if the Times intended to follow up any part of this story. The follow-up story in the Outlook sheds very little light on the cause of the disturbance or the actions of the police regarding beatings.

I didn't see any of the TV coverage and the people who did have told me that at least one account placed responsibility for the disturbance equally on the police and the crowd. No one has told me of any follow-up reporting by any station about any aspect of the disturbance.

A very disturbing aspect of all the circumstances is the different way people report seeing the police treat black people as compared to the white people involved. For instances, witnesses say a white man throw a bottle and hit a police car. The man was apprehended and placed (some say unhandcuffed) into a dune buggy type police car with no guard. On the other hand, witnesses report, as stated above, that 2 black men were severely beaten simply for arguing with the police. The press makes no mention of this difference in treatment.

One person with whom I spoke called the police the day after the "riot" to get information. He was told that the "riot" was started by "outside Black people". He was also told, rather sarcastically, that clubs were used because the City Council had outlawed the chokehold.

At this writing, some 3 weeks after the "riot," very little more is known to the public concerning its cause. Neither the police nor the press appear interested in finding out how or who started or provoked a major disturbance with serious undertones of police abuse of citizens, citizens abuse of police and public facilities (the beach), and the racial implications of who got hurt and why such force was used in selected instances.

This is not only a community issue, though it is certainly that. Venice is a popular and unusual recreation center for a great variety of people in Los Angeles. Neither those of us who live here or the people who come to visit will be served well by silence in this matter, If, as appears the case, instances such as this are responded to after the fact with a show of increasing police presence along Ocean Front Walk, very little will be done to ease the tension which contributed to the "riot."

September 1983 #165

A "Hot" Sunday on the Beach (Letter)
Officer Steve Rose ---- LAPD - Pacific Area

Several weeks ago an incident occurred at Venice Beach between a large unruly crowd and the police. Two officers assigned the beach were arresting a suspect who was selling narcotics on Venice beach. During the arrest a crowd gathered around the officers and the suspect. The suspect started to resist the officers and when his resistance increased, the crowd became excited and attempted to assist the suspect. Some in the crowd chose the cowardly way by standing in the middle of the crowd while throwing rocks and bottles at the officers. When additional officers were called in the group became more unruly.

The crowd numbered about 1500 with 100 or so doing the main inciting. Many police units from throughout the City and the Los Angeles Sheriff's Office, responded to the police officers' call for help. During the altercations six agitators were arrested, by officers going into the crowd to get them. After nearly an hour, the group was finally dispersed and sent on their way.

Fortunately, no one was seriously injured. The Officers making the original arrest received minor cuts from the rocks and bottles, nothing serious and only limited damage was done to the police equipment by the unruly crowd. On the whole, according to a sergeant on the scene, "We were lucky! If there hadn't been quick support from back-up units, the crowd would have eated [sic] the two officers up!"

I wasn't at this large incident, fortunately! I watched several news reports on television and read several accounts in the local newspapers. I was struck by how different all the accounts were between the various reports and how different the so-called eye witness reports were. As they always seem to be.

One report had the police randomly running through the crowd beating people and actually causing the "riot." Another report had the incident as 50/50. 50% the fault of the police and 50% fault of the crowd. Last week I received a telephone call from a reporter of a local Venice beach newspaper, asking me to comment on a report that during the riot officers were attacking the people in the crowd with their batons. I tried to explain police procedures in incidents like this but this reported did not want to listen to me. He only wanted confirmation on his so-called reports, and wasn't really interested in my explanation. I am sure he wants to sell his story and using "police brutality" as a headlint will get his story printed.

Regardless of who was right and who was wrong in this incident, the public deserves fair and truthful reporting. The officers working the beach have done so for many years without major incident. They have many friends there and they were recently commended for their work by the Los Angeles City Council. The officers involved in this incident were totally outnumbered by some 1500 to 50. Yes, they used their batons as self defense to push back the crowd and to disperse them, but even batons aren't necessarily a match for flying rocks and bottles coming from the middle of a crowd. There were some injuries, but they were limited when you think of the number of people involved in an incident of this type. Some people in the crowd were injured by flying rocks and bottles thrown by the agitators and not by the police.

It would be nice to think of the police officer as a hero instead of always being thought of as brutal and not caring but it just would not sell as much news, now would it?

We're On the Map! Landmark Status for Canals
by maryjane

What a treat! On July 15th, 1983, the Los Angeles City Council passes a proposal that the Venice Canals be declared a Cultural and Historical Monument.

The proposal was researched, written and submitted by Tom Moran in early 1981. In September, 1982, Tom and I hosted the Cultural Heritage Board's tour of the Canal area so they could reach a decision on the Monument proposal. The members of the board were a delight to meet and walk with over the bridges, along the embankments, back to home. The members attending: Dr. Robert Winter, Patricia Simpson, Velma Taylor, Amarjit Marwah with staff members Ileana Welch and Joann Corral. Other bureaucracy steps continued in their tedious manners and finally Tom's proposal came before the full Los Angeles City Council, who voted favorably on the motion, July 15, this year.

Tom says this was the second proposal attempt in about 10 years, but I seem to recall an effort prior to 10 years ago and so, for me, it was the third attempt to have the Venice Canals Waterway System declared a Cultural and Historical Monument, that I have helped along, since I moved to the Canals in 1967.

Prior to the City's declaration, Tom accomplished the feat of having the Venice Canals placed on the National Registry of Historic Places and on the California State Registry of Historic Places. What a gift he has given back to the community he loves, a culmination of the gift of insistent community work by many others, eventually a collective effort.

VOlumes could be written on the struggles by many community people (volunteers) to maintain, preserve, restore the Venice Canals during the past 20 years versus others' struggle to develop, develop, develop the Canals into deep water private styled, yacht docked profits of quick cash and obliterate the shallow water wildlife estuary with public walkway embankments, walk bridges, the "one way" Dell St. bridges used for cars (as well as foot traffic, bicycles, etc.), bordered by residences only (we have the exception of a few businesses at Washington St. and Grand Canal from two of the many attempts to DEVELOP the Canals.)

July 28th of this year was another of the public hearings on the Venice Canals and Marina Peninsula Local Coastal Plan; (The Peninsula *is* Venice, folks) with the State Coastal Commission and the City Planning Departments. Basically 12 to 14 points were in contention, still, as the focus of the meeting, after years and years of planning by al concerned. Some things were settled at that meeting: 1) The construction, continuance and maintenance of the Ocean Front Walk along the Marina Peninsula; 2) City lots to be used for the public use are at Dell and Linnie, Howland, Sherman Canals and on the Peninsula between Privateer and Outrigger Streets; 3) there is to be no dumping or draining of construction into the Canals.

The "Declaration" of the Canals can only strengthen and grace any planning of and within the Canal area.

For all of us, Canal Residents and the Public at large, these public declarations are a focus of the pride of our heritage and of the importance of the Canals as a unique design for living. Here: the breeding waters, the migratory resting and mating space for air and sea creatures; the wildlife estuary at the edge of the urban sprawl of Los Angeles, in harmony (usually) with people residing along the waterway banks, with public access, no-motorized boat outings; a coastal resource for the people of Venice, Los Angeles and all visitors.

October 1983

Dear Venice Beachhead,
This letter is in response to the Werner Scharff interview where he speaks about cleaning up Venice and getting rid of the "riff-raff." He feels it would be a much nicer, safer, pleasing place to live and asks to hear from anyone with any ideas on how to accomplish this. Well, here is my idea, but first let me say that I totally agree with you that Venice would be much nicer and cleaner if people DID NOT have to live on the streets - but the concept of "getting rid of the alcoholics, drugs and riff-raff" bothers me. I don't believe this is something we can just rid ourselves of. There are many mentally ill, lost and hopeless people on the streets - they need our help because they cannot help themselves (at least at this point in their lives.). Because you are a humanitarian Mr. Scharff and have the money and property, I suggest you build a shelter on one of your vacant lots to home the homeless. This would be a wonderful and courageous gift to the people of Venice who have given you such a prosperous life. I realize it is a huge undertaking and I won't go into the details on how it should be done - since government is not doing anything for the poor, I believe it is time for a person with the funds to step forward. We are all connected and living on this planet together - when one person suffers we all suffer.

I know from personal experience that drug addicts, alcoholics, and the sick can be helped. I was never living on the streets but I am an ex-drug addict who was helped and "made it back." I have my dignity now and would like to see others get back theirs. These people can be helped and it is up to the stronger people to help the weaker people.

I'm sure you could get professional people and volunteers to work in the shelter. Here is your first volunteer.
Sincerely, Karen Goldberg, Venice

October 1983

A Rude Awakening
by Loise Nevelle

"Get out of LA...it's illegal to live in LA...Whatever we do is legal...I'm not here to answer your questions."

These quotes from Officer Slinkard, Badge #21640 of the LA metropolitan police although stated out of context, appear to sum up the new attitude of LA CIty Hall towards persons living in campers.

It applies even more to the 30,000 destitute unemployed forced to sleep on beaches, in parks, under freeways and even on the streets. Despite the fact that most have lived in LA for years under happier circumstances, LA does not want them.

Social service agencies advise those unable to find housing and fortunate enough to have cars or campers to live in their vehicles. The police ticket them if they do so at night whether in public or private lots or on the streets. They are illegal.

"There are many desperate situations and we cannot do a thing. We cannot find housing for people. The situation is terrible. It is not publicized, the public does not know about it," declared a social worker from the Public Social Services Agency. "Nothing is being done."

Churches and private agencies do their best to temporarily house and feed the few they can before turning them out on the streets again. All have stated that they cannot begin to cope with the growing problem. LA plans, it is said, to "clean up the city" by removing the poor from sight before the Olympics. How they will do this without offering them some aid is a question.

All of which brings us back to Officer Slinkard, Badge #21640, and one example of how the technique of "Protect and Serve" is applied.

Of the many evicted from the Venice public parking lots at about 3 AM the morning of Monday, September 26th, two of them were Penny and Bill. Penny is a mature woman, mother of an adult daughter who lives and works in LA. Penny is a vendor on the Ocean Front Walk.

Bill, a 7-year military veteran with a bachelors degree in the arts, now works in Venice full time making and delivering buffers for metal auto parts.

Even though they are both employed, they cannot afford to rent at the present high prices. So for $3 a day, they rented a space in the public parking lot. Knowing that they would be illegal anywhere else they parked at night, they decided they had no choice but to remain on the lot.

About 3 AM they heard a terrific banging on both sides of the camper (which they discovered next day had dented it and put a hole in one screen.)

"Police, come out."

Penny: "Wait a minute while I get dressed."

Officer Slinkard: "Come out right now as you are. You haven't got anything we haven't seen before. If you don't come out now, we'll break down the door."

Afraid they would indeed break the door, Penny and Bill emerged, Penny scantily clad in only a longish tee shirt which barely covered her hips. They emerged on the parking lot. Bill protested. He was told to shut up. Nevertheless, he asked what he could do about their parking situation.

Officer Slinkard: "Get a job."

Bill explained he had a job and was asked for the name and address of his employer.

Officer Slinkard did the talking. The other, a Venice policeman merely stood by. As Officer Slinkard was particularly hostile to Bill, Penny decided it would be better if she did the talking.

Penny" "Where can we park legally at night?"

Officer Slinkard: "Park on someone's front lawn."

This, obviously not a serious answer to a serious question, made Penny angry.

Penny: "Do you like this job of moving people out of their homes?"

Officer Slinkard: "I like moving people out of their homes."

Penny: "Since I'm taking a ticket, what would happen if we leave our vehicle here tonight?"

Officer Slinkard: "We will tow your vehicle with you in it.

Penny: "Isn't it illegal to tow a vehicle with people in it?"

Officer Slinkard: "Anything we do is legal."

Penny: "But where can we park if we can't park here?"

Officer Slinkard: "Get out of LA. It's illegal to live in LA."

Penny: (now very upset) "I'm an American citizen. I pay taxes. I have rights.

Officer Slinkard: "You don't have any rights!"

Penny: (accepting the ticket) What would happen if I refused to sign this ticket?

Officer Slinkard: "I'm not here to answer your questions. Now get out of here."

According to some ticketed that night, the procedure was more or less the same, especially the obscene opener, "Don't wait to get dressed. You don't have anything we haven't seen."

The obscenity is not surprising considering other things we hear of the LA police, but is it considered proper procedure by the police department? If so, this is serious. Others can be arrested for obscenity.

As for Penny, she was upset for several days. "It was a terrible feeling to be treated like a non-person. No one knows what it's like to be treated like a non-person with no rights until it happens to him. It was like facing the Gestapo. It wasn't so much what they did, as how they did it."

"But where will we live? Bill's job is here. We can't leave LA. We don't know what to do."

And what of the homeless beach-sleepers ticketed that night? Next day a police car and the county garbage truck came to the beach, threw their sleeping bags and blankets and whatever other necessities they had into the garbage truck and drove away.

Will the Olympics bring 1984 to LA?

© 2004 - 2012 Pat Hartman
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