Sunday, August 18

Throwback Thursday: Former graduate student fined, jailed for ignoring 65 parking tickets

(Daily Bruin archives)

(Daily Bruin archives)

When I was a high school student interning at UCSD’s San Diego Supercomputer Center, my biggest expenses were gas and parking tickets. Something tells me UCLA’s commuters are spending most of their money on the same things.

Commuting to Westwood takes a herculean effort – except Hercules would have probably gotten to campus sooner since he didn’t drive a car (ignoring the fact he had a flying horse as a companion – but I digress). Students and employees have to brave the spontaneity of Los Angeles traffic, navigate the easily congested streets of Westwood and try to cut down on unnecessary gas expenditures.

And the best part of it all: finding a parking spot.

With finite spots and an ever-increasing campus population, parking at UCLA is a nightmare with a price tag. Commuters are either forced to come to campus at unbearably early times to secure parking spots or venture the streets of Westwood in hopes of finding spaces large enough to fit their cars. That’s not even mentioning the trouble commuters go through to pay for parking permits and guard against the university slapping hefty fines on them.

One commuter in 1963, however, sought to change it all.

On February 4, 1963, the Daily Bruin wrote a news story about Ira Sohn, a UCLA graduate student who was arrested for racking up a whopping 65 parking tickets around the Westwood area and refusing to pay up. Sohn was also arrested for refusing to comply with a jaywalking citation.

Sohn told the Bruin at the time that he ignored the parking tickets on the basis of “the law’s injustice,” and that he ignored the jaywalking citation on the basis of that “law’s silliness.” Something tells me he had some strong opinions about 1960s traffic laws.

The Bruin reported that Sohn was first taken to UCLA’s police station and then transferred to the then-Purdue Street Station. He was later tried at the West LA jail and fined $350 after pleading guilty to the charges.

Sohn’s single night in jail, however, was far from pleasant. He said he was placed in a cell with 100 other prisoners, and had to wait in a small area behind a red line for five hours before he was searched by a guard and forced to fork over his personal possessions. He was allowed to make phone calls during that time, and apparently worked out a deal to send over the $350 he owed to the jail.

At 2 a.m., however, he learned the jail didn’t accept payments after midnight, and was forced to hang tight for three more hours before he was released at 5 a.m. to receive the money and pay the jail personally. Clearly, bureaucratic red tape wasn’t a foreign concept 55 years back.

When asked about his opinion of the jail experience, Sohn told The Bruin the had “witnessed more cruelty and stupidity in one hour (than was) conceivable.” These days, you’re more likely to hear someone say that about having to negotiate a parking ticket fine.

Of course, traffic laws and fines aren’t any less overbearing than they were in the 1960s, but at least students nowadays tend only to complain about parking tickets, rather than about being arrested for them.

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Senior staff columnist

Tadimeti was the Daily Bruin's Opinion editor from 2017-2019 and an assistant Opinion editor in the 2016-2017 school year. He tends to write about issues pertaining to the higher education, state politics and the administration, and blogs occasionally about computer science. Tadimeti was also the executive producer of the "No Offense, But" and "In the Know" Daily Bruin Opinion podcasts.

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