On January 29 4:30pm after walking approximately 16-miles west on Casitas Pass Road (Hwy 150) from Ojai heading towards Carpinteria as we were looking for a place to stop for the night, a gentleman pulled up in his vehicle and asked if we needed a place to rest for the night. We said that we did. He said that we would be welcome on his property a short distance away where he had mules and horses. We gladly accepted and spent three nights, waiting out the rain storm. The kids got a nice rest. On Monday morning, we got up early and proceeded northwest on Hwy 150 to Santa Barbara. Lady, Little Girl, Babe and I say thank you to Bradley and his wife Emily for kindly allowing us to stay on their nice, quiet ranch with their mules and horses.
While our January 13th blog post told about our two separate police encounters in Simi Valley in Ventura County, this blog post will cover the varied greetings that we received from city, county and state employees and officers as we traveled through the Ventura County cities of Camarillo, Ventura and Ojai.
City of Camarillo
On January 21, 2016, we arrived in Camarillo. The City of Camarillo’s city emblem on all the street signs throughout the city and on the sign in front of city hall is of a man on a horse –the city’s namesake, Adolfo Camarillo, on his Camarillo White Horse that his family bred from the 1920s through the 1980s.
We first stopped by the City of Camarillo Library to charge our phone. As we were sitting outside the library, the librarian came out, introduced herself and presented me with this t-shirt and book “Farm City” by Novella Carpenter on inner city farming, which I find very interesting and appreciate the kindness of the librarian to give the Mules these gifts.
From the library, we proceeded to walk to Camarillo City Hall to deliver the Declaration of Emergency during which time we had two police contacts. During the first police contact, two plain clothes officers pulled up in an unmarked car, got out and wanted to know who we were, what we were doing and wanted to see our identification and wanted to know if we were offering services. We said no we don’t offer services nor do we ask for donations. They continued to ask us inquisitive type question. They were pleasant enough and went on their way.
It wasn’t too long afterwards that two police marked cars stopped us and basically wanted to know the same stuff and wanted to see our ID. It was a forced stop. We weren’t breaking any laws but the officer decided that we were illegally passing through the city of Camarillo.
We were not illegally passing through the city of Camarillo. We have the legal right the same as any automobile, the same as any bicyclist, and the same as any pedestrian to walk freely through the city of Camarillo. So, we weren’t breaking any laws but we were treated as we were. We were stopped forcibly by the police officer. He called it in and found out that we had the right and released us. He went his way and we went our way to Camarillo City Hall and were greeted kindly by Camarillo City Hall staff who came out to take pictures with the mules and ask questions to learn more about our ages old nomadic way of life.
After we left city hall, we found a big vacant area on that same road to rest for the night. In the middle of the night Camarillo Police car stopped to look at us but the officer continued driving. We got up in the morning and left the area clean as we always do and did not leave behind anything.
Ventura County Animal Services
While we were passing through Simi Valley and Camarillo, we stopped by Ventura County Animal Services building in both these towns and asked permission to fill our bucket with water for the kids. The nice staff and volunteers at the shelter greeted the mules and let us have some water to drink.
San Buenaventura State Beach, Ventura
On Sunday January 24 in the evening, we arrived in Ventura by San Buenaventura State Park just a little before dark. We had stopped here a couple times in the past to rest, so we decided that we would do so once again. We didn’t go inside the confines of the park. We were outside the fence in a large grassy area between the street and the fence. We stayed here. I picketed the mules out, fixed my dinner and went to sleep.
I got up in the morning and was packing up to leave. A park ranger drove up in his truck and informed me that I was illegally camping in a state park. He said I would have to leave immediately. I said I was in the process of packing up to leave. He said that if I didn’t leave immediately or if I ever showed up again, I would be subject to arrest and the animals would be impounded. I packed up and left.
Ventura River Trail, Ventura
From San Buenaventura State park, we followed the Ventura Promenade to the Ventura River Trail going from Ventura to Ojai that parallels the Ojai River.
We walked for about 6 miles on the trail and found a good place to graze. It was a brushy vacant area that had no signs forbidding trespassing and had no fences or locked gates. It was a matter of stepping off the trail and walking back into the brush. We decided this place was also a good place to rest for the night.
Upon getting up in the morning the mules were happily grazing. I decided to do some shoeing. By the time I was through putting new horseshoes on the mules, it was around 11 to 11:30am. I took the mules out towards the freeway to let them graze in a grassy area. We were up there for about an hour grazing when we were approached by a gentleman in a white construction hat. He asked if he could take our picture, we said sure and we exchanged a few pleasantries and that was the end of it. The mules continued to graze and we were there for another half hour.
I decided to go back to camp and pack up and leave. As I was in the process of rolling up my horseshoe tools and putting them away in the pack boxes, two Ventura county sheriffs showed up with the gentleman in the white construction hat. The officers informed me that I was trespassing and I would have to leave. I was in the process of leaving so that was no problem.
I mentioned the fact that there were no signs or fencing so I could not be trespassing and I could not be arrested for that because there was no notification that I was trespassing. The sheriffs said, “We are giving you notification now and you have to leave.” I said fine. They hung around until I got all packed up. They were there for over an hour. When I finally got packed up and left, they left.
City of Ojai
We proceeded following the Ojai Valley Trail to Ojai and walked for about 6 miles when we found another good place off the trail to graze. We decided to stopped here for the night so that the kids could continue grazing. The next morning, we packed up and followed the Ojai Valley Trail to Ojai City Hall and delivered the Declaration of Emergency. We have had no police contact in Ojai.
While we were in Ojai, we met Molly who later put up a Facebook posts that nicely describes who we are and what we are trying to accomplish as we walk and live outside all day every day.
“Mule has been living outside with his mules for 31 years. Just walking. He’s dedicated to trying to convince people that when we destroy nature, take up all the wilderness space with buildings and concrete and no room to roam freely, we’re destroying ourselves and our true nature. He’s trying to affect a change by encouraging the “People in Charge” to link the outdoor spaces, parklands, etc., so a horse, a mule, a bike, a walker – can pass through continuously without breaking a law. He’s also trying to have those same ones in charge consider making it possible for a traveler like him to spend one night legally in outdoor space.”
Thank you Rene for inviting the Mules to rest in your orchard for the night and providing the kids hay and water.
On Tuesday, January 12, 2016, while walking down the street going through Simi Valley, we encountered a couple of Simi Valley Police officers who stopped to talk to us. We had a friendly conversation. They wanted to know about our journey and we told them and we proceeded on our way through Simi Valley.
As it was getting dark, we found this location to stop to rest for the evening about 50 feet away from the the railroad tracks. I picketed the mules onto a fence.
Around 6:30am this morning I got up, checked the mules, then started fixing my breakfast when Simi Valley Police appeared and informed me that they received a phone call that there were loose horses along the railroad tracks. Of course, they saw that this was not true. The mules were not loose and secured on picket lines. The officers informed me that I was on railroad property and trespassing and I had to leave.
The officer were nice about it and asked when we would be leaving. I told them that I was in the process of leaving as soon as I finished eating my breakfast in about an hour or so. We fully intended to leave and be on our way. They said fine.
As they were leaving, one officer informed us that we could not trespass on railroad property and if we ever returned here again, they would have to arrest me and impound my mules. They said that they were notifying me of that so hopefully that would not happen. I said it wouldn’t.
Before they left, I said that being the case, there is really no place in Simi Valley to stop and rest for the night. Because of that, the next time I come through Simi Valley we’ll have to use public space, county, city, state parks to to exercise our right to stop and rest for the night. They didn’t say anything and that was the end of the conversation.
This is a perfect example of how all space in this country is being taken away. You have to have access to public space to exercise your freedom to move freely in this country. If you don’t have it, you don’t have any freedom. You can’t have one without the other. To walk freely and to move freely in this country when the end of the day comes, one has to be able to stop and rest. And if there is no space for that, you in effect have no freedom at all.
This kind of occurrence is constantly happening to us. Public space must be available to stop and rest for the night. We’re not talking about staying and putting up a tent and staying for long periods of time day in and day out. We’re only talking about a stop for the night, resting, and continuing on our way.
Synopsis: On March 16, 2015, after buying a soda at Big Lots, Mule was eating lunch with the mules in a quiet, shady area of the Big Lots parking lot when five Ventura Police cars surrounded them. Ventura Police issued a $132 administrative citation for “Control of Domesticated Animals – Running at Large”. The Mules were not running at large. The Mules followed procedures to contest the citation. This contest was rejected by the Ventura Police Administrative Review Officer, after which the Mules contacted attorney Steven X. Schwenk who requested an Administrative Hearing. On June 15, 2015, Ventura Police Department sent a follow-up letter stating that the “Animals at Large” citation will be vacated, stating “This Department’s investigation has determined that there is insufficient evidence you were responsible for violation of the SBMC section as cited.”
March 16, 2015
The Mules were peacefully taking a break in a shady spot yesterday when five Ventura Police cars surrounded us. Ventura Police issued a $132 administrative citation for walking in their city.
“San Buenaventura Municipal Code Chapter 8.050, Article 6 Control of Domesticated Animals Other than Household Pets, Section 8.050.660. – Running at large:
It shall be unlawful for any person owning or having control of any animals, rabbits, poultry or domestic fowl, other than household pets, to permit the same to run or go or be at large upon the premises of any other person, without permission so to do, or on the street or public places within the city.”
March 18, 2015
The Mules researched how to contest this citation. This is what is written on the Ventura website. The information on the website conflicts with what is written on the citation. However, we will meet the earlier deadline and hand deliver our paperwork to contest the citation.
March 19, 2015
Ventura County Star published an article today about Monday’s incident in Ventura. Article states that “Police said the managers of Wendy’s and Big Lots called to complain”. Mule went into Big Lots to buy a soda. While inside Big Lots as a customer, Mule was never told that he was not allowed to shop in the store. Big Lots accepted money for the soda.
After buying the soda, Mule returned to the parking lot to eat his lunch and was never approached by Big Lots or Wendy’s managers they could not be there. The mules were hitched in Big Lots back parking lot in an empty, quiet section to keep the mules safe from cars and not near Wendy’s. Google satellite image of where mules were at in parking lot as well as photos that Mule took in parking lot of location.) No sign in the parking lot posted that horses and mules are not permitted.
Article also states that “mules were leaving traces of their visit in the parking lot.” The police witnessed Mule clean up the droppings immediately after it happened.
Article quotes Brian Brennan, former Ventura City Council member, “In the city of Ventura, you can still tie up horses on Main Street – an old law never taken off the books.”
Mules were given an administrative citation for San Buenaventura Municipal Code Chapter 8.050, Article 6 Control of Domesticated Animals Other than Household Pets, Section 8.050.660. – Running at large: It shall be unlawful for any person owning or having control of any animals, rabbits, poultry or domestic fowl, other than household pets, to permit the same to run or go or be at large upon the premises of any other person, without permission so to do, or on the street or public places within the city.”
March 25, 2015
We the Mules left Montecito this morning on our way to Ventura, California to deliver our completed contest form and additional letter of evidence to Ventura Police Department, and Ventura City Mayor contesting the citation that was written against us the Mules for animals running at Large (SBMC) 8.050.660. We will probably arrive there Thursday. Below is what we sent.
Note: Not publicly sharing pages 5-7 to keep witness accounts private.
March 27, 2015
The Mules arrived at Ventura City Hall in the afternoon and presented the DOE, MCL and the Request Review Form (contesting the citation (SBMC 8.050.660 Running at Large written against us by the law enforcement arm of the Ventura Megatropolis) to the city manager Mark D. Walkins, who happened to be passing through and said he would see to it the Mayor, police chief and the Administrative Review Officer, each get a copy delivered to them that we provided in three envelopes. The Mules said thank you then left, got back onto the public thoroughfare (all city, county and state roads) and proceeded to travel north on our ages old migratory journey north.
The public thoroughfare in this country belongs to the Public. It is our freedom – the right to wake up in the morning and choose where you go, how you go, when you go – must be held sacrasank. It is the basis on which so many have given life and limb to protect and preserve. For any Megatropolis and its official, Ventura and others who make and pass laws, codes, ordinances that restrict any by denying the use of the public thoroughfare to any one of the citizenry are engaged in a blatant act of illegality.
While everybody is distracted and worried about issues that the officials tell the media to put in front of the public, the Megatropolis is sneaking through the backdoor using ordinances and codes to destroy the public access to the public thoroughfare.
Watch the Mules. The Public Thoroughfare is our life blood for to lose it is our death we know this, so we will resist this all day, every day, one step at a time.
May 12, 2015
Ventura Police Department sent letter that our request to contest the citation was rejected.
Upon receiving this rejection letter, we contacted attorney Steven X. Schwenk located in Mill Valley, CA to represent The Mules.
Mr. Schwenk agreed and sent a letter as well as spoke with Ventura City Clerk requesting an Administrative Hearing to discuss the rejected initial Administrative Review
June 15, 2015
Ventura Police Department sent a follow-up letter stating that the “Animals at Large” citation will be vacated, stating “This Department’s investigation has determined that there is insufficient evidence you were responsible for violation of the SBMC section as cited.” Thus, no in person Administrative Hearing was required.
Thank you Attorney Steven X. Schwenk for stepping up to represent The Mules pro bono with willingness to travel from Mill Valley to Ventura to defend us in court for this citation that we did not believe was valid in the first place.
About 4pm, while grazing on a vacant lot, we were approached by Ventura City Police, who told us that they knew who we were, and if we stopped within city limits to sleep, it would be considered illegal camping, in which we would be arrested and the mules would be impounded. We moved from this location and were not cited.
November 12, 2014: Arrested by Thousand Oaks Police
This evening the Mules were resting in an open field in Thousand Oaks when a deputy told us we could not camp here. We told him that we were not camping, just staying the night. Since we would not move, I was arrested and jailed, and the mules were sent to Animal Services in Agoura Hills.
November 13, 2014: Released
Released from jail at no cost. The mules were released from animal services after paying $514 fee.
November 19, 2014: Ventura County Police encounter
About 4pm, while grazing on a vacant lot, we were approached by Ventura City Police, who told us that they knew who we were, and if we stopped within city limits to sleep, it would be considered illegal camping, in which we would be arrested and the mules would be impounded. We moved from this location and were not cited. We are in Ventura as we have a hearing for the Thousand Oaks citation at Superior Court of Ventura County in the morning.
November 20, 2014: Superior Court of Ventura County hearing
The Mules appeared at Superior Court of Ventura County charged with committing an infraction by violating Thousand Oaks Municipal Code Section 5-8.08(c): Unlawful Camping, a misdemeanor (criminal offense). This was reduced to an infraction Thousand Oaks Municipal Code Section 1-2.0I and is considered to be a PUBLIC NUISANCE. The fines were waived by the judge. The Mules walking all day peacefully, carrying and spreading the energy of reverence and respect for this beautiful earth and all its inhabitants have now been officially categorized by the Megatropolis as a PUBLIC NUISANCE. The automobile, the Megatropolis’ most valued tool, however, kills and maims hundreds of thousands every year. Killing children walking and riding their bicycles gets by. Nothing is said, no charges. The automobile will certainly never be called a PUBLIC NUISANCE.
November 6, 2014: U.S. District Court trial results
At the trial today at U.S. District Courthouse in Los Angeles, we were charged with 1) not obeying an order of a federal employee; and 2) camping in an undesignated area on national park land, Santa Monica Mountains National Recreational Area. We pleaded not guilty. We were found guilty on both charges with no imposed penalties or fines, but were assessed a $35 court fee.
11/6/2014 Trial Transcripts (click to read):
On July 16 2014, the Mules attended arraignment at United States District Court in Los Angeles for the three citations received on May 9, 2014 while spending the night on land under jurisdiction of the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area. A “not guilty” plea was entered and trial date is set for November 6, 2014 at which time the Mules will return to Los Angeles. Below are the documents that were handed to us in court.
On May 9, 2014 about 6pm, we were looking for a place to stop as we had been walking all day. We came across this open area. We went into it. There weren’t any locked gates or signs forbidding us to go into it, so we did. I removed the gear from the mules, turned one loose and put one on a picket line attached to a tree.
I fixed my dinner and switched the mules, brought one in, put one out and went to sleep for the night. We were awoken about 10pm with flashlights shining on us. National Park rangers announced who they were and wanted to know what we were doing there.
We told them that we were walking all day, stopped for the night and would be leaving in the morning. They checked with their supervisors who responded no deal. You have to leave.
We said that it’s 10:00 at night, we aren’t interested in packing up and walking in the dark. We are on national park land. This is public property and belongs to the people of the United States. We believe that we have the right to stay here for the night to rest and will be gone in the morning.
The supervisors back at the station said that we had to leave or be taken to jail. So I was taken to the Alhambra City Jail and the mules were taken to the Ventura animal shelter. I entered the jail around 12:00 at night. I was put in a large cell by myself. I went to sleep. I woke up around 6am and started walking back and forth in my cell for 6-7 hours at which time lunch came in and I ate it. Then I went to sleep again.
I was asleep for about an hour when a jailer came in and said get your stuff, you’re leaving. So I got my stuff and walked out to the corridor and the park rangers were waiting. They took me back to the animal shelter where my belongings and the mules were waiting.
I packed the mules up and we left there sometime after dark and we were on our way.
So, in summary, we were arrested by National Park Police by Thousand Oaks for merely stopping to rest for the night on public land that belongs to the people of the United States in an area that wasn’t manicured. It was an open field that we could do no harm.
Location where we had stopped to rest for the night in Thousand Oaks in Ventura County. Google Earth link: http://maps.google.com/maps?f=q&hl=en&geocode=&q=34.15584,-118.96217&ll=34.15584,-118.96217&ie=UTF8&z=12&om=1
We were issued three citations:
United States District Court – Notice to Appear