LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) – About a dozen people were arrested Thursday night during a protest against the removal of a large-scale homeless encampment at Echo Park Lake and the park’s indefinite closure to clean up an estimated $500,000 in damage.
Protesters clash with LAPD officers during a demonstration against the closure of Echo Park Lake homeless camps. March 25, 2021. (CBSLA)
Several hundred protesters faced with with Los Angeles police officers in riot gear outside the office of Los Angeles City Councilman Mitch O’Farrell at Sunset Boulevard and Lemoyne Street, which is also just outside Echo Park Lake. Just after 8 p.m., the LAPD declared an unlawful assembly after officers said the crowd used high-intensity lights in an attempt to blind officers.
The LAPD tweeted that they had set up a designated protest zone on Glendale Boulevard north of the park. Anyone arrested outside that zone could face misdemeanor charges. Police said that anyone who remained at Echo Park Lake could be arrested.
Several media members were detained, including a reporter for the L.A. Times and two reporters for Knock LA, but all were later released.
Several protesters are arrested after clashing with LAPD officers. March 25, 2021. (CBSLA)
The LAPD issued a statement early Friday morning about the detaining of the media members. It stated that, after declaring an unlawful assembly, officers asked all media members to identify themselves and remove themselves from the crowd.
“The protesters failed to disperse, requiring officers to safely establish containment and begin detaining individuals one by one,” the LAPD statement read in part. “As members of the group were being individually detained, the officers learned that several credentialed and non-credentialed members of the media were part of the group. Members from the Department’s Media Relations Division were summoned to assist in identifying these individuals and they were released at scene without being arrested.”
CBSLA counted about a dozen arrestees being loaded onto police buses, but the exact number of arrests was unknown.
In a statement late Thursday night, O’Farrell stated that 32 more people were moved into transitional housing Thursday. He said a total of 200 homeless people from the park have been moved into transitional housing over the past week.
This comes after several hundred demonstrators faced off with police on Wednesday night. On Thursday morning, L.A. officials confirmed Thursday morning that Echo Park Lake is being closed for an unknown amount of time in order to remove the 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)
Echo Park Lake has 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 Thursday. “There have been four deaths in the park over the last year.”
Wednesday night’s protests prompted the LAPD 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. 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. 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.