Amnon Free Press
The Los Angeles Police Department was ultimately prevented from clearing out a massive homeless encampment near Echo Park, a popular tourist attraction, after clashing with protesters and “homeless activists” who demanded the camp be left alone.
“Los Angeles police clashed with hundreds of protesters on Wednesday as officers moved in to close Echo Park’s massive homeless encampment, according to authorities,” Fox News reported Thursday morning. “The demonstrators — a mix of homeless people and activists — threw bottles and objects at officers, who attempted to push them back from the park, according to reports. Many refused to move and some chanted: ‘Whose park? Our park!’”
The LAPD declared two “unlawful assemblies,” according to the network, and issued two orders to disperse. The protest had mostly “wound down” by the early morning hours, but LAPD chief Michael Moore also relented, allowing residents of the homeless encampment to remain overnight but adding that they must leave within 24 hours.
The LAPD effort to clear the park began earlier this week, per Newsweek. “Park rangers taped notices onto tent poles and trees that said the park will close Thursday, according to the newspaper. The signs added that all personal property must be removed from the park, including tents, chairs, and tables.”
The early warning, though, gave homeless activists time to organize a protest, and dozens of demonstrators turned up Wednesday night to prevent police and city services from clearing the park.
“Just before 10 p.m., park rangers, flanked by LAPD officers, began taping notices of closure onto trees and light poles on the east side of the park, where homeless people have been camping throughout the COVID-19 pandemic,” the L.A. Times reported. “City contractors protected by LAPD officers unloaded fence from flatbed trucks. Flood lights helped guide their work as they pounded the panels of fence into the ground. Once it was up, the workers unfurled green fabric and hung it along the fence.”
Some reports indicated that the LAPD clashed with “anti-Fascists” and other progressive protesters.
The LA Times added that the LAPD “was asked to support community safety efforts during installation of the fencing to assist in the rehabilitation of Echo Park. Department personnel are deployed in that area so that those efforts can begin in a safe and unimpeded manner.” An L.A. city council member also noted that city services coordinators would be on site on Thursday to help move residents along to other areas.
Los Angeles has, in many cases, tolerated homeless encampments, particularly in the wake of the COVID-19 epidemic, which left many residents without jobs or a source of income and shuttered shelters and other temporary housing options. But Echo Park is a popular location for Los Angeles residents and tourists and the city wants it returned to public hands.
Homeless activists, though, argue that the encampment is less a homeless shanty-town and more of an “autonomous zone,” and that residents have “improved” the area with a food pantry, a shared garden, and other amenities.
Neighbors of the encampment, however, are not convinced the “autonomous zone” near Echo Park is improved by its transient population.
“As the encampment grew last year to nearly 200 tents and covered nearly half the park, many residents of the surrounding hillsides demanded [that the city council] do something about an intrusion of trash, drug use, and crime in their neighborhood,” according to the Los Angeles Times.
The Los Angeles Police Department pledged Thursday to return to clear the encampment, but also to allow limited protests. Moore told the media Thursday that “a designated protest zone has been established for the Echo Park incident as well as media access.”
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