By Cailin Garcia
LOS ANGELES — Hundreds of protestors gathered last night outside of the office of LA City Councilman Mitch O’Farrell to speak out against the removal of homeless encampments at Echo Park Lake.
The protests were a continuation of organized action that began earlier in the week, but especially escalated on Wednesday night after the LAPD declared unlawful assembly and attempted to clear demonstrators from the area.
Protesters continued to gather at Echo Park Lake to show their solidarity with the unhoused community. Organizers held signs with phrases such as: “People Are Not Pests,” “Homeless Doesn’t Mean Worthless,” and “Services not Sweeps.”
Organizers seem to have siginifcant support from the Los Angeles community and beyond. A GoFundMe campaign, organized by Ashley Bennett, titled “Echo Park Rise Up: A Vision of Love and Community” has raised more than $47,000 in support of community outreach efforts in Echo Park. The campaign hopes to “clean up the city and change the way homelessness is viewed forever” by creating a job program, community kitchen, medical tent, community showers, and community gardens for Echo Park’s unhoused community.
But tensions rose on Thursday morning when LA officials gave encampment residents a 24-hour notice to leave the park. LA officials also installed a large fence around the park and closed off surrounding streets.
Several videos posted to the #EchoParkRiseUp tag on Twitter, which was largely responsible for organizing the protests, show protestors surrounded by LAPD in full riot gear.
Last night, the LAPD declared unlawful assembly around 8 p.m., after claiming that the crowd of protestors attempted to use high-intensity lights to blind officers. A designated protest zone was set up on Glendale Boulevard and the LAPD warned that anyone who remained at Echo Park Lake could be arrested and anyone outside of the zone could face misdemeanor charges.
The exact number of arrests is currently unknown, but CBSLA estimates at least a dozen people were arrested and loaded onto police buses. Among the detainees were several members of the media, including Los Angeles Times Reporter James Queally.
Queally alleges he was wearing an LAPD-issued press badge lanyard around his neck when LAPD officers grabbed him and zip tied his wrists. A video of the arrest was uploaded to Twitter by fellow reporter Lexis-Oliver Ray, who wrote: “We all got boxed in. James and I were trying to stick together.”
Kate Cagle, a reporter with Spectrum News, faced an almost identical situation. She tweeted a video of herself being escorted away by police after being zip tied. In earlier tweets that same night, Cagle posted photos that showed protestors being “kettled” and “sandwiched between police lines.”
In response to the protests, Councilman O’Farrell issued a statement on his Twitter: “I urge calm and cooperation tonight at Echo Park as we continue our work to move the final few people experiencing homelessness from the park into transitional housing before the parkspace closes temporarily for repairs.”
Many prominent LA activist groups were critical of O’Farrell’s response.
“No sleep for politicians who brutalize, displace, and harm their constituents. Shame on you Mitch O’Farrell,” tweeted Street Watch LA.
“LAPD shot 6 people in 7 days. They are now going to violently arrest 100s of people and displace 100s of residents of Echo Park Lake,” tweeted People’s City Council of Los Angeles. “This is not a safe situation for us. Make this national news. All blame on Mitch O’Farrell.”
This morning, Mayor Eric Garcetti also commented on the situation, stating: “You know, people want to provoke. I think a lot of people who were protesting didn’t know that there were only two people last night even left in the park, and those people have kind of refused to go, but hopefully, we’re optimistic and we’ve given more time to those folks.”
“I love activism, I love the attention on homelessness that happens. But I think to make sure that folks wouldn’t surge in and prevent the housing operation that was happening and the ultimate closing to clean up the lake, that’s why the police were there,” said Garcetti.
The situation at Echo Park Lake continues to develop, with many demonstrators on Twitter continuing to report heavy police presence in the area.
Cailin Garcia is the co-editor in chief and founder of the People’s Vanguard of Los Angeles. Orginally from Santa Clarita, CA, she is currently a senior at UCLA, studying Sociology with a minor in Professional Writing.
To sign up for our new newsletter – Everyday Injustice – https://tinyurl.com/yyultcf9
Support our work – to become a sustaining at $5 – $10- $25 per month hit the link: