David Busch, 55, stood up during public comment at a Transportation Committee meeting yesterday -- and comment did he ever.
According to L.A. City Councilman Bill Rosendahl, who was leading the meeting, Busch "waved his arms around and yelled and demanded that the meeting be over." General Services Police quickly called in LAPD officers for backup.
"He started screaming and saying, 'I'm a socialist -- and Rosendahl, you're a Democrat,'" says the councilman. "I didn't understand, frankly. But the reality is that he interrupted a public meeting. ... at a very sensitive time."
Venice Patch Editor Samantha Page reported today that Busch was arrested at the meeting "on a misdemeanor charge of disturbing the peace." Here's what she heard him say on the way out the door:
"Bill, you are facilitating segregation in Venice between the rich and the poor," Busch told the councilman before being escorted out of the room in handcuffs. "You want to segregate the beach."
Busch also took the arresting officer to task as well, saying, "It's enough of policemen like you coming out, tellng us, at 6 o'clock in the morning, 'It's my job to torment poor people.'"
The agenda item causing all the fuss was Rosendahl's Vehicles to Homes proposal. Since its inception and original moniker "Safe Parking" (bo-ring), it's attracted an avalanche of fallout from angry Venice Beach heads who have taken to squatting on gentrified city streets in their RVs, and really wouldn't have it any other way.
For full background on the community rager, see Dennis Romero's "Gentry Against Funky in Venice."
Still, Rosendahl pretends he doesn't see a difference between the two sides, politely calling Busch a "constituent" or a "gentleman" as he talks about yesterday's disturbance.
But opponents of the Vehicles To Homes program aren't playing nice back. From Romero's July 2010 piece:
Ten old RVs line one block of Third Avenue in Venice. Most are stuffed to the windshields with hoarded junk. Few look roadworthy. Tires are bare. Cobwebs have formed. A man sporting dreadlocks walks up and says three of the campers, all painted in the same '60s rainbow theme, belong to him.
Asked if he would ever participate in Los Angeles City Councilman Bill Rosendahl's program that would take rig dwellers like him away from residential neighborhoods and place them in special parking lots overnight, he has a few choice words for the city denizens:
"This is not residential," Rasta man says. "Tell them residents, this is a beach. Fuck that shit. We don't give a fuck what people up in them hills think about us."
Things are different now. After Jared Lee Loughner shot six people dead and Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords critically in the head on Saturday, politicians are more on edge than ever. Rosendahl says the five police officers who escorted Busch out of City Hall on Wednesday afternoon were using their best judgment, considering the situation.
"Frankly, they were doing their job," Rosendahl says. "Things are pretty intense in the city these days. I hope to god we don't have any more flareups."
The Transportation Committee was hoping to move onto other items after gathering some opinions about Vehicles to Homes from the homeless advocates, community housing groups and concerned Angelenos who came out to City Hall for the RV issue.
At the meeting, writes Page, one Venice resident "asked Rosendahl to reconsider the 'coercive nature' of the program, which insists participants enroll in social services, saying it was 'cheaper and better' to let people join the program without feeling that pressure."
But there were other pressing issues on the agenda -- such as a bus lane that the Bus Riders Union is trying to see installed along Wilshire Avenue.
Still, Busch wouldn't sit down.
According to Rosendahl, he "demanded that the meeting be adjourned ... screaming, 'We are ending this meeting! We are ending this meeting now!'"
Things only got more bizarre from there. Busch allegedly walked toward where the councilman was sitting, then "lied down on the witness table," which Rosendahl said was especially frightening because "he's a tall man -- 6'3" or 6'4"."
And who wouldn't begin to think paranoid thoughts of political crazies on violent streaks at a time like this?
"We're living in a very tense moment in America," says Rosendahl. "As [Busch] kept ranting and raving lying on the able, the police started coming in the room."
Busch received from support from the meeting's attendees, who Rosendahl says cried out -- referring to the policeman who cuffed the transient -- "He's got a Taser! He's got a Taser! Don't let him use the Taser!'"
Today, the councilman pats himself on the back for being the final dove of peace in the City Hall shakeup:
"I got up, grabbed his arm and said, 'You made your point. You don't need to take this any further.'"
Yes, dear readers, we do realize this is all being told from the perspective of an L.A. City Councilman. But we couldn't get a hold of any other witnesses -- let us know if you were there and saw things differently. Because Rosendahl is obviously slightly disillusioned:
"Things are rough these days," he says. "Everywhere I go, people know who I am. So there already was heightened security for all of us councilmembers and the mayor."
From here, the Vehicles to Homes proposal will go before City Council, where all Bill's friends are sure to applaud his grave community concerns, then to the City Attorney, who will be tasked with drafting a new ordinance. If all that works out, RVs will be shown the way to their new homes in designated parking lots.
Busch is still in jail today, and police aren't saying exactly when they'll let him go. However, while the Weekly was on the phone with Rosendahl this afternoon, the councilman received a call on his cell phone from a certain female LAPD "captain," who told him Busch may be offered the option of $100 bail. Which is still kind of a lot for a homeless guy...
"Some of his supportes wanted me to get him released," says Rosendahl. "But the police strongly believe his actions were ... way out of line."
He lists these "supporters" as Venice Community Housing Corporation Executive Director Steve Clare, along with former Venice United Methodist Church treasurer and pro-RV activist Peggy Lee Kennedy and her Venice Action Alliance colleague David Ewing (the same "resident" in the Patch quote from the meeting).
All three haven't been answering their office phones this afternoon/evening, but we'll try them in the morning. While we're waiting, who wants to get started on the "Free Busch" shirts?
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Turns out the guy's a regular Venetian activist. Take a gander at this Los Angeles Times article from December -- concerning a "Venice resident James Hunter, whose body was found Dec. 1 in his Ford van," and in which Busch gets like four paragraphs of print-time. Let's just say, dude's no stranger to the spotlight.
"It really woke me up," said David Busch, 55, who said he has been homeless in and around Venice for the last dozen years.
Hunter "was a friendly, a quiet, gentle guy," Busch said. "But the man had a heart condition and was terrified that he would be targeted. All these punitive measures -- it's just snowballed and gotten out of control."
Busch said he joined the protest Saturday to appeal to residents of Venice who want to address the homeless problem, not kick it out of town.
"Show your love Venice!" Busch shouted. "Stop the homeless kick-out -- now!"
And hey, why not? Here's a video of him doin' this thing at a Venice Neighborhood Council meeting: