Echo Park Lake Closed After Protest to Save Homeless Camp

A number of hundred folks, together with advocates and homeless residents, confronted off in opposition to a line of police carrying riot helmets to protest the closing of the rising encampment.

A newly put in fence surrounded a well-liked Los Angeles park Thursday after authorities moved in to evict residents of a big homeless encampment regardless of protests by the individuals who dwell there and their supporters.

Only some tents and a couple of dozen folks remained by night alongside the grassy banks of Echo Park Lake, the place tents had proliferated for months throughout the coronavirus pandemic, sparking issues about trash, medicine and violence.

Residents argued that the complaints had been overblown and the encampment supplied a neighborhood setting for folks with out means who’ve nowhere else to dwell.

Police gave folks till 10:30 p.m. Thursday to go away in order that the town may carry out what officers mentioned had been mandatory repairs to the positioning. Those that go away have been supplied momentary housing, and at the very least 166 folks had already been sheltered, mentioned Mitch O’Farrell, a metropolis councilman whose district contains the park.

“We now have had a really profitable housing operation that started in January,” O’Farrell informed reporters earlier Thursday. He mentioned the town has contracted with the nonprofit City Alchemy to assist homeless residents clear up their campsites and transfer.

A pair hundred demonstrators gathered peacefully Thursday night exterior O’Farrell’s close by workplace with a big banner that mentioned “providers not sweeps.” Late Thursday night time, police declared an illegal meeting and commenced arresting those that refused to go away.

KTLA-TV reported that about two busloads of demonstrators had been being arrested.

Round 4 a.m., the LAPD launched a press release on the arrests, which included “a number of credentialed and non-credentialed members of the media.”

The gathering adopted a confrontation late Wednesday night time, when authorities confirmed as much as set up the fencing. A number of hundred folks, together with advocates and homeless residents, confronted off in opposition to a line of police carrying riot helmets. Protesters carried indicators that mentioned “dignity, not displacement” and “we’d like long run options.”

A police assertion mentioned there have been verbal confrontations however that the protest was largely peaceable and demonstrators voluntarily departed. One particular person was arrested for failing to adjust to an officer’s orders, and officers twice used drive that was characterised as minor, police mentioned.

The encampment had overtaken areas surrounding the lake, an oasis-like locale the place locals and vacationers usually stroll and picnic on the lake’s banks, which embody a towering fountain and a view of the downtown skyline. The lake has been featured in lots of films, together with the Oscar-winning Chinatown in 1974.

The Los Angeles Homeless Companies Authority mentioned its outreach staff had moved 44 folks into housing Monday and Tuesday, principally into resort rooms below the state-funded Mission Roomkey program aimed toward offering shelter for these most in danger throughout the coronavirus pandemic.

Antonia Ramirez, who mentioned she has been homeless for 20 years, vowed to remain at her campsite at Echo Park Lake and threat being arrested. Ramirez, who mentioned she has lived at parks in Los Angeles and in neighboring Orange County, mentioned she moved in days earlier.

“I’m not leaving. I might be arrested, and I’ll spend my time in jail,” mentioned Ramirez, 60.

Her fellow tent-dwelling residents argued the rising encampment had offered a safe place for homeless folks throughout the public well being disaster.

Valerie Zeller mentioned she doesn’t need to settle for help from the town due to shelter restrictions that embody curfews.“I care loads about this park,” she informed ABC 7. “I choose up trash every single day for 2 hours at the very least.”

Zeller mentioned she plans to maneuver onto a close-by sidewalk.

Kelvin Martinez, an organizer with the advocacy group Road Watch LA, accused metropolis officers of “dangerous religion communication.” He mentioned requests for providers throughout the previous 12 months had been largely ignored till the sudden announcement that the park can be closed.

“Town’s technique is to displace these folks into darkish corners, into hiding, below overpasses. So long as they are not seen in a public place like a park,” Martinez mentioned.

No timeline was offered for the closure, which O’Farrell’s workplace mentioned was essential to make “in depth repairs” to lighting and plumbing on the park and for common “public security enhancements.” The encampment has been the positioning of drug overdoses, assaults and shootings, with 4 deaths within the park over the previous 12 months, in line with a press release from O’Farrell’s workplace.

The situation of the encampment within the fast-gentrifying Echo Park neighborhood gave it a excessive profile, however it was not distinctive for the metro Los Angeles space. Tents will be discovered all through the town and area regardless of an array of state and native applications aimed toward sheltering folks and transitioning them to everlasting housing.

A January 2020 depend by the Los Angeles Homeless Companies Authority reported that there have been greater than 66,400 homeless folks dwelling in Los Angeles County — by far the most important single focus within the state.

That included greater than 41,000 folks inside Los Angeles metropolis limits. Each figures had been up greater than 12 p.c from the earlier 12 months. The annual depend was canceled for 2021 due to the pandemic.

Among the many main authorized actions on the difficulty is a federal courtroom lawsuit filed by a bunch of enterprise house owners, residents and neighborhood leaders referred to as the LA Alliance for Human Rights.

The lawsuit accuses the town and county of failing to comprehensively tackle the desperation that homeless folks face — together with starvation, crime, squalor and the coronavirus pandemic.

U.S. District Decide David Carter, who’s overseeing the case, referred to as events to a listening to in a Skid Row parking zone final month and mentioned that if politicians can’t present options, he desires to discover what powers the courtroom has to order and oversee treatments. Invoking the Fifties civil rights case Brown v. Board of Schooling, Carter mentioned there may be robust priority of the federal courts appearing “after a protracted interval of inaction by native authorities officers.”

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