LAPD cops in riot gear descend on Echo Park encampment


LAPD cops in riot gear descended on a homeless encampment at Los Angeles’ Echo Park to clear out the area, leading to clashes with protesters.

The officers, armed with batons and rifles, carried out the planned sweep on Wednesday night but were met by more than 200 protesters who refused to leave the area, the Los Angeles Times reported.

Around 10.30 p.m. on Wendesday, officers told protesters to disperse and then called it an ‘unlawful assembly’ when most refused. Officers were seen pushing several protesters as they tried to move them away from the area.

Protesters – a mix of the homeless community living in the park and activists who have joined their cause – chanted ‘whose park? our park’ as the LAPD ordered them to ‘clear the area’ over a loudspeaker. 

The issue of the homeless encampment at Echo Park has become a ‘highly charged test of city leaders’ struggle to balance residents’ demands for clean streets and public spaces as it battles to contain its growing homeless problem, the Times reported.   

LAPD cops in riot gear descended on a homeless encampment at Los Angeles’ Echo Park to clear out the area

The officers, armed with batons and rifles, carried out the planned sweep on Wednesday night but were met by more than 200 protesters who refused to leave the area

The officers, armed with batons and rifles, carried out the planned sweep on Wednesday night but were met by more than 200 protesters who refused to leave the area

Around 10.30pm on Wendesday, officers told protesters to dispersed and then called an 'unlawful assembly' when most wouldn't

Around 10.30pm on Wendesday, officers told protesters to dispersed and then called an ‘unlawful assembly’ when most wouldn’t

At around 10 p.m., park rangers were joined by LAPD officers in taping notices of closure onto trees and lampposts on the east side of the park, where a number of homeless people have been camping during the coronavirus pandemic.

The signs warned that Echo Park would close on Thursday, and said that all personal property must be removed from the park by then, ‘including, but not limited to, tents, chairs, tables, backpacks, bags, and personal items.’ 

While being guarded by LAPD officers and in the glare of flood lights, city workers unloaded fence from a truck before unfurling green fabric that was hung along the fencing.

Los Angeles Police Chief Michel Moore said the homeless residents staying inside the park would be allowed to stay overnight, but that no one else can enter, and added that the residents must leave within 24 hours. 

Some of the protesters who had gathered in an attempt to block the city’s attempt to remove the residents saw Moore’s statement as a victory, with one organizer shouting ‘We won the night,’ according to the Times.

One of the residents said: ‘I live here and I consider tonight a victory.’

Cops ordering protesters to 'clear out the area' over loudspeaker were met with chants of 'whose park? our park'

Cops ordering protesters to ‘clear out the area’ over loudspeaker were met with chants of ‘whose park? our park’

Earlier in the day, signs were posted on trees and light poles saying that the park will close on Thursday, and that all personal property needed to be removed. That included tents, chairs, tables, backpacks, bags and personal items

Earlier in the day, signs were posted on trees and light poles saying that the park will close on Thursday, and that all personal property needed to be removed. That included tents, chairs, tables, backpacks, bags and personal items

But just before 10.30 p.m., the LAPD issued a dispersal order to the crowd over a loudspeaker and officially declared the protest an ‘unlawful assembly’.

This led to some clashes between protesters and the police force, with officers dressed in riot gear seen shoving people, while some bottles and other objects were thrown at the police.

LAPD officers tried to push the protesters back from the park, but they refused to move.

Pictured: Demonstrators lock arms trying to prevent police from advancing into the Echo Park section of Los Angeles to evict its homeless residents in the early hours of Thursday, March 25, 2021

Pictured: Demonstrators lock arms trying to prevent police from advancing into the Echo Park section of Los Angeles to evict its homeless residents in the early hours of Thursday, March 25, 2021

Los Angeles police officers move in to arrest demonstrators in the Echo Park Lake homeless encampment in Los Angeles late Wednesday, March 24, 2021. LAPD officers tried to push the protesters back from the park, but they refused to move

Los Angeles police officers move in to arrest demonstrators in the Echo Park Lake homeless encampment in Los Angeles late Wednesday, March 24, 2021. LAPD officers tried to push the protesters back from the park, but they refused to move

Los Angeles Police officers close traffic around the Echo Park Lake as they move in to remove a homeless encampment in Los Angeles late on Wednesday night, March 24, 2021

Los Angeles Police officers close traffic around the Echo Park Lake as they move in to remove a homeless encampment in Los Angeles late on Wednesday night, March 24, 2021

Pictured: Police officers stand near the Echo Park Lake, as they prepare for the eviction of the homeless encampments, amid the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Los Angeles, in the early hours of March 25, 2021

Pictured: Police officers stand near the Echo Park Lake, as they prepare for the eviction of the homeless encampments, amid the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Los Angeles, in the early hours of March 25, 2021

At one point during the confrontation, a line of police was seen moving slowly along Glendale Boulevard at the edge of the Echo Park Lake, telling protesters to leave. They were met with chants of ‘Whose park? Our park!’

Protesters then took up a chant, criticising the police officers for their equipment. ‘Why are you in riot gear? I don’t see no riot here!’ they chanted at the officers.

But by 12:30 a.m., The Los Angeles Times reported that the number of protesters had dwindled to about 40 people, who were vastly outnumbered by several hundred police officers watching on.

Some residents of the camp said they would refuse to leave, while others decided it was time to go.  

Pictured: Demonstrators block the road next to Echo Park in an attempt to stop the LAPD from clearing the park of the homeless camp that has formed during the coronavirus pandemic. One man holds a sign reading 'stop the sweep'

Pictured: Demonstrators block the road next to Echo Park in an attempt to stop the LAPD from clearing the park of the homeless camp that has formed during the coronavirus pandemic. One man holds a sign reading ‘stop the sweep’

At one point during the confrontation, a line of police was seen moving slowly along Glendale Boulevard at the edge of the Echo Park Lake, telling protesters to leave. They were met with chants of 'Whose park? Our park!'

At one point during the confrontation, a line of police was seen moving slowly along Glendale Boulevard at the edge of the Echo Park Lake, telling protesters to leave. They were met with chants of ‘Whose park? Our park!’

One homeless man, Edward Juarez told the LA Times that he had been living in the park since August after he lost his job as a professional photographer due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

‘I just want to get out of here, it’s getting crazy,’ he told the site.   

Earlier, at 10:05 p.m., Los Angeles City Councilman Mitch O’Farrell issued a statement saying ‘the Los Angeles Police Department was asked to support community safety efforts during installation of the fencing to assist in the rehabilitation of Echo Park,’ according to NBS Los Angeles.

‘Department personnel are deployed in that area so that those efforts can begin in a safe and unimpeded manner.

‘Our homeless service providers will return tomorrow morning to continue their work with the park’s unhoused residents to offer shelter and services to anyone who wants and needs the assistance.’ 

Pictured: The tents of the homeless encampment in Echo Park along the walkway around the lake. The city plans to clear the park for what it describes as a half-million-dollar repair effort in Los Angeles, 24 March 2021

Pictured: The tents of the homeless encampment in Echo Park along the walkway around the lake. The city plans to clear the park for what it describes as a half-million-dollar repair effort in Los Angeles, 24 March 2021

Echo Park is found north of Downtown Los Angeles, close to Dodger Stadium, and is around a ten minute drive from Hollywood. During the coronavirus pandemic, it has become the site of a camp of homeless people, next to the lake

Echo Park is found north of Downtown Los Angeles, close to Dodger Stadium, and is around a ten minute drive from Hollywood. During the coronavirus pandemic, it has become the site of a camp of homeless people, next to the lake

The police department also released a statement, urging ‘calm and cooperation as the installation of fencing in support of the Echo Park rehabilitation effort continues. Unfortunately officers have received projectiles and refusals from individuals blocking streets in the area.’

On Twitter, it also denied that officers had used tear gas against the protesters, posted ‘There is NO tear gas being used.’ Pictures from the scene appeared to corroborate the department’s statement.

Also late on Wednesday, the SELAH Neighborhood Homeless Coalition demanded that the park closure and eviction by postponed so that the residents ‘have the necessary time to meaningfully connect with service providers who are working tirelessly to serve them.’ 

By Thursday morning, the crowd had reduced in size, and the protest had largely wound down. 

While the city has closed other, larger homeless encampments with less resistance, the future of the camp at Echo Park is proving to be a point of conflict in its on-going struggle with the homelessness epidemic.

Unlike with previous sweeps, which has seen the city temporarily displace residents so workers can clean up the area, the sweep at Echo Park is intended to be permanent.

Pictured: A homeless man sits on a bench in front of the lake with signs behind him reading 'People Over Profit' and 'We Need Long Term Solution' next to a banner reading 'Healing Happening Here' in the homeless encampment in Echo Park, March 24

Pictured: A homeless man sits on a bench in front of the lake with signs behind him reading ‘People Over Profit’ and ‘We Need Long Term Solution’ next to a banner reading ‘Healing Happening Here’ in the homeless encampment in Echo Park, March 24

Some residents of the camp have agreed to vacate the park, but others are vowing to resist the city’s eviction attempts, arguing that the park has been improved by its residents and their allies as a place that gives homeless people safety and dignity that can not otherwise be found on sidewalks or under freeways.

The residents and those fighting for their right to stay argue that the encampment is a model example, with a pantry, a garden and coordinated efforts to clean the park.

Ayman Ahmed, a man in his 20s who has become an unofficial spokesperson for the encampment, told Councilman O’Farrel during a Wednesday morning protest ‘This park could have easily been MacArthur [Park] or skid row, but it wasn’t. It wasn’t. That was because of us — not you,’ according to the Los Angeles Times.

But as the camp grew last year to nearly 200 tents, it also drew the ire of neighbours, while city leaders argued that they were not pushing people out, but rather offering them better accommodation. 

‘You define a sweep as moving someone indoors to a safe, clean environment where they will be provided free, healthy meals, receive medical care and a path to wellness, then you can call it what you want,’ O’Farrell said later on Wednesday.

‘Because this is what we are doing for everyone who has been there over the last several weeks or months.’

Many local residents demanded that O’Farrell do something about the camp, citing an intrusion of trash, drug use and crime in their neighborhood, which he represents. The councillor had said for a long time that he would close the park and repair damage, but resisted requests for a timetable.

Pictured: A homeless woman packs her belonging in front of her tent in Echo Park as the city plans to clear the park for what it describes as a half-million-dollar repair effort in Los Angeles, 24 March 2021

Pictured: A homeless woman packs her belonging in front of her tent in Echo Park as the city plans to clear the park for what it describes as a half-million-dollar repair effort in Los Angeles, 24 March 2021

Some residents, however, have supported the encampment. 

‘Echo Park Lake, situated on Tongva Land, has been a haven of this community since its development and should remain a free and accessible place for members of this community who need it for solace, leisure or survival,’ Zarinah Williams, president of the Echo Park Neighborhood Council, said in a statement reported by NBS LA.

‘We do not feel that $500,000 in restorative landscaping is a priority endeavor given layered consequences of displacement and criminalization of our residents.’  

Job losses caused by the coronavirus pandemic are expected to leave tens of thousands of low-wage workers without homes over the next three years, a report released in January said.

According to data from Economic Roundtable, the Pandemic Recession is projected to cause twice as much homelessness as the 2008 Great Recession.

Homeless people in the United States have been hit particularly hard by the Covid-19 pandemic. While research has shown that homeless people have been surprisingly resilient to infection, research shows that those that do catch the virus are 30 percent more likely to die than those in the general population, according to The Times.

In Los Angeles county, homeless coronavirus patients were 50 percent more likely to die.



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