Former residents of Echo Park Lake and advocates for the city’s homeless population held rallies outside Los Angeles Police Department headquarters and City Hall Tuesday, several days after the city removed more than 200 unhoused residents of the park and arrested more than 180 protesters.
“These people came in and raided a community. We built a kitchen when they wouldn’t provide food. We built a shower when they defunded the shower. We were just trying to get along as a community that loved each other without race, gender, border or labels and they came in with an armada, a small army … are we OK with this?” said Ayman Ahmed a former resident of the park who was one of the last holdouts before being arrested last Friday morning.
The rally outside City Hall was organized by Echo Park Rise Up, an organized group of the park’s former residents. The rally outside police headquarters was held by members of the Stop LAPD Spying Coalition, Black Lives Matter Los Angeles, Los Angeles Community Action Network and White People for Black Lives.
“The LAPD recently shot 6 people in 7 days. We also saw them unleash their violence last week in Echo Park against the unhoused community and allies, then call it a `service to the community,”’ the groups said ahead of the rally.
“The LAPD’s so-called `oversight’ body, the Mayor Garcetti-appointed LA Police Commission, has responded to this important moment by suppressing public comment and then canceling this week’s Tuesday morning meeting,” it added.
The City Council did not meet Tuesday because of Passover, but does have a meeting scheduled for Wednesday. The Police Commission Board secretary didn’t know why the Police Commission meeting was canceled.
Councilman Mitch O’Farrell’s office said on March 22 that the city was planning to close the park and clear out its residents to perform more than $500,000 in repairs and restoration caused by homeless people at the park.
Many neighbors had complained about the group’s trash and said they no longer felt safe visiting the park, and city officials said multiple deaths and instances of sexual abuse had occurred in the encampment.
The move was met with protests to protect the park’s approximately 200 residents from displacement. During protests Thursday night, 182 people were arrested, and at least five journalists, including the Los Angeles Times’ James Queally, were briefly detained.
Councilman Mike Bonin called the police department’s response “a disgrace.”
“A neighborhood in lockdown. Hundreds of cops in riot gear. Reporters being zip-tied and detained. Protesters being kettled and arrested. This is a disgrace and it did not have to happen. It’s a shameful day for Los Angeles,” he said.
Advocates for the homeless have also criticized O’Farrell and the city’s efforts to remove the park’s homeless encampment, saying it had grown into a safe haven for people with no other options. They also questioned what would happen to the homeless once their stays at the temporary hotel rooms ended.
The Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority told City News Service on Friday that 138 park residents were placed in Project Roomkey hotel rooms, 35 in Project Homekey sites and 11 in A Bridge Home shelters.
O’Farrell said Saturday that he was “disappointed that some local elected officials, valuing politics over finding real housing solutions in their own districts, have sought to mischaracterize our successful work to house people. They have also wrongly conflated our efforts to house individuals with our larger conversations about police reform. In addition to misleading people, this rhetoric does a great disservice to Angelenos, both unhoused and housed, and it needs to stop.”