Los Angeles, November 11, 2011
By Joshua Taylor www.AmericanEthics.org
Editor: Gia Trimble
The VA hospital is located in Downtown Los Angeles, in 1888, a large land segment in Los Angeles was bequeathed to house homeless veterans. The federal government has decided to not hold up the terms of the contract and started to sell off the land to the highest bidder. Today, it is estimated that there are over 100,000 homeless vets nationwide. The Los Angeles area alone has over 12,000 vets sleeping on the streets every night. This number increases daily. The number will suffer a steep increase in the near future with the vets who are slated to come back from Iraq in December. They are coming back to a country that cares more about the bottom line then its people. There won't be jobs for our vets, let alone jobs for those already lacking jobs. The war on terror has already claimed the life of veterans and many from the “War on Terror” are already sleeping on the streets. With the sale of Veteran property by the US government there isn’t any housing in site.
November 11th, Veterans Day, we, some of the vets at Occupy LA, decided to support Veterans For Peace by going to meet them at the VA hospital. We had little time to prepare, so we just wanted to have a small protest. The moment we stepped on the lawn on VA property we were met with apprehension. A VA PR representative told us that we were “allowed to be there” but signs were strictly prohibited met us. We were not allowed to exercise our 1st amendment rights, according to them, because it’s federal property. So, at the birth of our nation the bill of rights only applied to the federal government and not to the state; now the bill of rights no longer applies to the federal government?
There were ten of us strong in the group and after some deliberation we started to protest; in a very peaceful manner. About 6 LAPD officers crossed the street from outside the grounds to see what was going on. The head PR representative again came out with 5 police officers and we all spoke for a few minutes. He informed us that though he commiserated as a veteran himself, we were not welcome. We asked him some basic questions pertaining to our rights, to which no answers were given. It is our constitutional right to protest, especially on our land. Ten VA police officers appeared as if to intimidate us. Our group was small and overpowered; therefore we were forced to retract. Our attempts at documenting the interaction were rebuffed and denied albeit the fact that according to federal law, backed up by trial precedent, we are allowed to film any were out in the open.
We went to the Hospital on the same grounds for already existing sicknesses and four patrol cars followed us. Whilst veteran's property was sold off, they all drove brand new Dodge Chargers. The hospital wasn’t staffed to help anyone that day it - figures that we would miss a violation of our rights because we didn’t want to film the VA hospital.
One of our civilian attachments decided to get a picture of the outside of the VA hospital. Police officer Captain R. Ruiz badge number 546 illegally took the camera from him - without a reason and no plans to return it. The equipment has not been returned (as of posting date) and it promotes hardship on the person, as he can't afford a replacement. I asked the officer for a reasonable explanation and he argued a privacy issue except that a right to privacy only exists when an individual has an expectation of privacy. Per law, no individual has the right to privacy in places where people gather out in the open. This, the outside of a hospital, is an open space where people adjoin.
After a series of polite inquiries as to the status of the camera Captain R. Ruiz badge number 546 threatened to arrest me, still holding on to his incorrect information as on privacy rights. The interaction was very hostile and saddening, as I love my country.
The content within the camera is likely gone, forever gone. My rights as an American have been violated, and had our supporters been in more abundant numbers we would have remained and executed our rights.
Thank you Federal police for kicking veterans off of OUR land on Veterans day.