Los Angeles park closed after protest to save homeless camp

LOS ANGELES — A newly put in fence surrounded a preferred Los Angeles park Thursday after authorities moved in to evict residents of a big homeless encampment regardless of protests by the individuals who stay there and their supporters.

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

Police gave folks till 10:30 p.m. Thursday to depart in order that the town may carry out what officers mentioned had been crucial repairs to the location. Those that depart have been provided short-term 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’ve got had a really profitable housing operation that started in January,” O’Farrell advised 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 outdoors O’Farrell’s close by workplace with a big banner that mentioned “providers not sweeps.” Late Thursday evening, police declared an illegal meeting and commenced arresting those that refused to depart.

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

The gathering adopted a confrontation late Wednesday evening, when authorities confirmed as much as set up the fencing. A number of hundred folks, together with advocates and homeless residents, confronted off towards a line of police sporting 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 pressure 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 embrace 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 Providers Authority mentioned its outreach staff had moved 44 folks into housing on Monday and Tuesday, principally into resort rooms beneath the state-funded Venture Roomkey program geared toward offering shelter for these most in danger in the course of the coronavirus pandemic.

Antonia Ramirez, who mentioned she has been homeless for 20 years, vowed to remain at her camp web site 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 will likely be arrested, and I’ll spend my time in jail,” mentioned Ramirez, 60.

Valerie Zeller mentioned she doesn’t wish to settle for help from the town due to shelter restrictions that embrace curfews.

“I care so much about this park,” she advised ABC 7. “I choose up trash each 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 in the course of the previous yr had been largely ignored till the sudden announcement that the park could be closed.

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

No timeline was supplied 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 location of drug overdoses, assaults and shootings, with 4 deaths within the park over the previous yr, in accordance with an announcement from O’Farrell’s workplace.

The placement of the encampment within the fast-gentrifying Echo Park neighborhood gave it a excessive profile, nevertheless 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 packages geared toward sheltering folks and transitioning them to everlasting housing.

A January 2020 depend by the Los Angeles Homeless Providers Authority reported that there have been greater than 66,400 homeless folks residing 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% from the earlier yr. The annual depend was canceled for 2021 due to the pandemic.

Among the many main authorized actions on the difficulty is a federal court docket lawsuit filed by a gaggle of enterprise homeowners, residents and neighborhood leaders known as the LA Alliance for Human Rights.

The lawsuit accuses the town and county of failing to comprehensively handle 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, known as events to a listening to in a Skid Row car parking zone final month and mentioned that if politicians can’t present options, he needs to discover what powers the court docket has to order and oversee cures.

Invoking the Nineteen Fifties civil rights case Brown vs. Board of Schooling, Carter mentioned there may be sturdy priority of the federal courts performing “after an extended interval of inaction by native authorities officers.”


Related Press photojournalists Damian Dovarganes and Marcio Sanchez and AP author John Antczak contributed to this report.

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