LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) – After several hundred demonstrators faced off with police the day before, Los Angeles officials confirmed Thursday morning that Echo Park Lake is being closed for an unknown amount of time in order to remove the large-scale homeless encampment there.
Protesters clash with LAPD officers in riot gear at Echo Park Lake over the removal of homeless encampments there. March 24, 2021. (CBSLA)
L.A. City Councilman Mitch O’Farrell confirmed in an early morning statement Thursday that Echo Park Lake had been closed to vehicle and pedestrian traffic. City contractors Wednesday began installing fencing around the park.
“The Echo Park facility has devolved into a very dangerous place for everyone there: drug overdoses, sexual and physical assaults, self-styled leaders taxing homeless individuals and vendors, animal abuse, families without shelter in the colder weather, and last fall shootings where one homeless individual was shot in the leg by gang members while children stood nearby,” O’Farrell said in a statement. “There have been four deaths in the park over the last year.”
Beginning Wednesday morning and lasting into Wednesday night, hundreds of people rallied against the plan to temporarily close Echo Park Lake in order to remove the large-scale encampment and clean up an estimated $500,000 in damage.
The protests prompted Los Angeles police Wednesday night to order a citywide tactical alert. Video showed pushing and shoving between the two sides and police issued a dispersal order and declared the demonstration an unlawful assembly a little before 10:30 p.m.
The tactical alert was lifted at around 1:25 a.m. Thursday. In a statement, the LAPD said that the protest remained “largely peaceful,” and said that no tear gas was used. One person was arrested on charges of failing to comply with orders from a police officer.
In January and February of 2020, the city attempted similar cleanup efforts that were also met with large protests. L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti claimed Wednesday that although there were about 120 tents left in the park, there were only 19 people living there as of last week. Homeless advocates called the forced move unjust and said it represents the larger issues surrounding L.A.’s homeless crisis.
“What we learned last year when we fought is that the vast majority of people get it, they get it, they get that they could be in this situation, that that could be your mother or your brother, and they support us,” Ayman Ahmed with Echo Park Rises Up told CBSLA Tuesday.
“They want these people out of here, out of the park, yeah, they’re going to get involved just to go to a hotel,” community activist Carlos Marroquin said Wednesday. “But what happens after that? Those vouchers are not permanent, they’re temporary.”
O’Farrell did not provide a date for when the park will be reopened to the public.
“Once the assessment of damages in the park and the necessary repairs are completed, an update will be provided on when the park will reopen to the public,” his news release read.