LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) – A dozen people were arrested Thursday night during a protest against the dismantling of a large homeless encampment at Echo Park Lake and the indefinite closure of the park to clean up about $500,000 worth of damage.
Several hundred protesters clashed with LAPD officers in riot gear in front of City Councilman Mitch O’Farrell’s office on Sunset Boulevard and Lemoyne Street, which is also near Lake Echo Park. Shortly after 8 p.m., the LAPD declared a demonstration illegal after officers said the crowd was using very bright lights to blind officers.
The Los Angeles Police Department said on Twitter that it had set up a special protest zone on Glendale Boulevard, north of the park. Anyone arrested outside this area can be charged with a minor misdemeanor. Police said anyone left at Echo Park Lake could be arrested.
Several members of the media were arrested, including a Los Angeles Times reporter and two Nook LA reporters, but all were released.
Early Friday morning, the LAPD released a statement about the arrest to the media. She stated that after the announcement of the illegal gathering, the officers asked all members of the media to identify themselves and remove themselves from the crowd.
The protesters were unable to disperse and demanded that officers be safely contained and begin arresting people one by one, the LAPD said in a statement. While the members of the group were apprehended individually, officers learned that the group included several accredited and non-accredited members of the media. Members of the service’s media relations department were called in to help identify these individuals, who were released at the scene without being arrested.
CBSLA counted about a dozen arrestees being loaded onto police buses, but the exact number of arrests is unknown.
Update: Our reporter @JamesQueallyLAT has been released from custody.
– Joel Rubin (@joelrubin) March 26, 2021
In a statement late Thursday night, O’Farrell said another 32 people were placed in temporary housing Thursday. He said that in the past week, a total of 200 homeless people have been transferred from the park to temporary housing.
The decision was made after several hundred protesters clashed with police Wednesday night. Los Angeles officials confirmed Thursday morning that Lake Echo Park will be closed indefinitely to clean up the homeless camp there.
Echo Park Lake is closed to vehicle and pedestrian traffic. On Wednesday, contractors began putting up fences around the park.
The Echo Park facility has become a very dangerous place for everyone: Drug overdoses, sexual and physical assaults, self-appointed leaders taxing homeless people and vendors, animal abuse, homeless families in cold weather and a shooting in the fall in which a homeless man was shot in the leg by gang members while children stood nearby, O’Farrell said Thursday in a statement. Four people died in the park last year.
Wednesday night’s protests prompted the LAPD to issue a citywide tactical alert. The video shows pushing and pulling between the two parties, and the police issued a dispersal order, declaring the demonstration an illegal gathering. In a statement, Los Angeles police said the protest was largely peaceful and no tear gas was used. One person was arrested for disobeying the orders of a police officer.
In January and February 2020, the city held similar cleanups, which also led to mass protests. Homeless advocates called the forced relocation unfair and said it posed a major problem with the homeless crisis in Los Angeles.
What we learned last year when we were fighting is that the vast majority of people understand, they get it, they understand that they could be in this situation, that it could be your mother or your brother, and they support us, Ayman Ahmed of Echo Park Rises Up told CBSLA Tuesday.
They want these people out of here, out of the park, yes, they will intervene just to get to the hotel, community activist Carlos Marroquin said Wednesday. But what happens next? These vouchers are not permanent, they are temporary.
O’Farrell did not give a date for when the park will reopen to the public.
Once the damage is determined and the necessary repairs are made, we will provide an update on when the park will be open to the public again, he said in his press release.