Peter Benenson, the founder of Amnesty International, coined a phrase fifty one years ago that has since become a proverb: “It is better to light a single candle than to curse the darkness.”
Mr. Busch’s real crime was to embarrass public officials. And what did the City learn from the jury’s “not guilty” verdict? There hasn’t been a peep about addressing the problem, just a threat from the City Attorney’s spokesman that Busch would face re-arrest if he did repeated his good deed.
City Responds to Busch Verdict
Sandy Cooney, communications director for Los Angeles City Attorney’s office, gave the following statement regarding the verdict in the People vs. David Busch trial:
“That Mr. Busch was not found guilty of the public nuisance charge does not give him the right to violate the law. The result on this count is no guarantee of a similar outcome should there be a second offense, which we certainly hope will not occur.”
Sign our petition – “Access To Toilets Is a Human Right” – make toilets available to homeless people – http://www.change.org/petitions/access-to-toilets-is-a-human-right
Twelve jurors, on Wednesday, Dec 19, after about 1 hour of deliberation –found David Busch’s home-made Porta-Potty for the homeless, which was torn down and destroyed by the LAPD last April –had been a lawful benefit to the Venice community.
Early this year, after pushing hundreds of homeless people and youth travelers off of Venice Beach’s Boardwalk from midnight until 5 am in the morning –and with no toilets available until nearly 8 am, Busch had been arrested by LAPD and charged with “creating and maintaining a public nuisance” (P.C. 372); for erecting a homemade Porta-Potty on Third Ave, near Rose; where up to 120 people, with no toilets, had begun attempting to find a safe shelter.
Starting with a tent for privacy, and after the City’s, own, unlawful, beach closure –Busch began collecting donations of soap, cleaning supplies and toiletries –and himself emptying and re-cleaning daily a bucket and a toilet seat lid for the Porta-Potty. The setup was in line with procedures outlined in Red Cross emergency manuals.
Maintaining the Porta-Potty necessitated hauling tightly sealed 5 gallons buckets –nearly four large city blocks to the nearest public toilets –and often two or three times a day.
In proving his innocence, Mr. Busch had to demonstrate that the utility of his conduct outweighed any offense to the larger community.
Additionally, Busch also was charged with violating LAMC 56.11: “Leaving property on a public sidewalk or street:”
For having, also, thereafter on Third Ave., a shopping-cart sized wheeled box –which he called his “Love Box.”
After an six additional hours of deliberation, and after three requests to the Judge, for the court to clarify the law and testimony –regarding the vague charge, which were all denied, the jury, in response, returned it’s verdict:
For violating LAMC 56.11.
LAMC 56.11 has been for several years constrained by a Federal Injunction –to prevent seizure of homeless people’s property that is merely left on the sidewalk, and not abandoned. In this case, the Judge did not allow a proposed jury instruction, that would have stated the charge must be balanced by all people’s 4th Amendment Right to Property.
During sentencing, for his un-abandoned Love Box on the sidewalk, the Los Angeles City Attorney’s Office demanded that Busch be entirely banished from Venice –for three years.
The Judge, instead, sentenced Busch to no probation, one day in jail, and time served.
Stated Busch at the end of the trial. “Today, after three days, and hours and hours of absurd testimony, presented by LAPD officers and City Hazardous Waste employees: absurd testimony from Officers that they never saw urination or defecation in Venice’s streets, or gutters, or alley’s; testimony that feces –contained in a bucket and later dumped down the toilet, was a greater threat to the watershed than the more than 60 lbs of feces and urine deposited in the streets, sidewalks and alleys –And all of which, supposedly, was meant to pick apart my own effort to keep the area clean –Venice’s Police Officers were given new, common-sense orders by their highest authority, the people:
12 jurors have instructed LAPD to open up their eyes –and recognize that even a homemade porta-potty by a homeless person is better than urination and defecation everywhere in Venice’s streets.
David Busch was represented by Defense Attorney John Raphling; who provided his services Pro-Bono, and is a member of the National Lawyers’ Guild.