clearn.png
Saturday May 15th, 2021 12:48AM

Los Angeles park closed after protest to save homeless camp

By The Associated Press
Related Articles
  Contact Editor

LOS ANGELES (AP) — A newly installed fence surrounded a Los Angeles park Thursday after a late-night confrontation between police and vocal demonstrators who oppose the city's effort to remove a large homeless encampment and perform what officials say are necessary repairs to the site.

People who were already living in tents at Echo Park Lake were allowed to remain overnight but were given 24 hours notice to leave, Police Chief Michel Moore said on social media.

“Housing resources are being provided to everyone," he said.

Hours earlier, demonstrators including advocates and homeless people faced off against a line of police wearing riot helmets. Protesters carried signs that said “dignity, not displacement” and “we need long term solutions.” They said that the encampment offers a community setting for people without means who have nowhere else to live.

A police statement said there were verbal confrontations but that the protest was largely peaceful and demonstrators voluntarily departed. One person was arrested for failing to comply with an officer’s orders and officers twice used force that was characterized as minor, police said.

Streets around the park were sealed off by officers Thursday morning and the Echo Park neighborhood was quiet.

The encampment had overtaken the park’s grassy areas surrounding the lake, an oasis-like locale where locals and tourists normally stroll and picnic on the lake's banks, which include a towering fountain and a view of the downtown skyline. The lake has been featured in many movies, including the Oscar-winning “Chinatown” in 1974.

Area City Councilmember Mitch O’Farrell said 160 homeless residents had so far been moved from the park into transitional shelters.

“We have had a very successful housing operation that began in January,” O’Farrell told reporters Thursday. He said the city has contracted with the nonprofit Urban Alchemy to help homeless residents clean up their campsites and move.

The Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority said its outreach workers had moved 44 people into housing on Monday and Tuesday, mostly into hotel rooms under the state-funded Project Roomkey program aimed at providing shelter for those most at risk during the coronavirus pandemic.

Antonia Ramirez, who said she's been homeless for 20 years, vowed to stay at her camp site at Echo Park Lake and risk being arrested. Ramirez, who said she has lived at parks in Los Angeles and in neighboring Orange County, said she moved in days earlier.

“I’m not leaving. I will be arrested and I will spend my time in jail," said Ramirez, 60.

Her fellow tent-dwelling residents argued the growing encampment had provided a secure place for homeless people during the public health crisis.

Kelvin Martinez, an organizer with the advocacy group Street Watch LA, accused city officials of “bad faith communication." He said requests for services during the past year were largely ignored until the sudden announcement that the park would be closed.

“The city's strategy is to displace these people into dark corners, into hiding, under overpasses. As long as they're not visible in a public place like a park,” Martinez said.

No timeline was provided for the closure, which O’Farrell’s office said was necessary to make “extensive repairs” to lighting and plumbing at the park and for general “public safety improvements.”

The encampment has been the site of drug overdoses, assaults and shootings, with four deaths in the park over the past year, according to a statement from O'Farrell's office.

The location of the encampment in the fast-gentrifying Echo Park neighborhood gave it a high profile, but it was not unique for the metro Los Angeles area. Tents can be found throughout the city and region despite an array of state and local programs aimed at sheltering people and transitioning them to permanent housing.

A January 2020 count by the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority reported that there were more than 66,400 homeless people living in Los Angeles County — by far the largest single concentration in the state.

That included more than 41,000 people within Los Angeles city limits. Both figures were up more than 12% from the previous year. The annual count was canceled for 2021 because of the pandemic.

Among the major legal actions on the issue is a federal court lawsuit filed by a group of business owners, residents and community leaders called the LA Alliance for Human Rights.

The lawsuit accuses the city and county of failing to comprehensively address the desperation that homeless people face — including hunger, crime, squalor and the coronavirus pandemic.

U.S. District Judge David Carter, who is overseeing the case, called parties to a hearing in a Skid Row parking lot last month and said that if politicians can’t provide solutions, he wants to explore what powers the court has to order and oversee remedies.

Invoking the 1950s civil rights case Brown vs. Board of Education, Carter said there is strong precedence of the federal courts acting “after a long period of inaction by local government officials.”

___

Associated Press photojournalists Damian Dovarganes and Marcio Sanchez and AP writer John Antczak contributed to this report.

  • Associated Categories: U.S. News, Associated Press (AP), AP National News, Top U.S. News short headlines
© Copyright 2021 AccessWDUN.com
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
Los Angeles park closed after protest to save homeless camp
A newly installed fence is surrounding a Los Angeles park after a late-night confrontation between police and demonstrators who oppose the city’s effort to remove a large homeless encampment and perform what officials say are necessary repairs to the site
4:51PM ( 2 minutes ago )
Snowboarders escaped monster avalanche, but not the law
Two Colorado snowboarders who triggered a slide that destroyed an expensive avalanche mitigation system have been charged with reckless endangerment, and prosecutors are seeking $168,000 in damages
4:37PM ( 17 minutes ago )
Lawyer: Colorado shooting suspect needs mental health review
The suspected gunman in the Boulder supermarket shooting has appeared in court for the first time
4:32PM ( 21 minutes ago )
Associated Press (AP)
Michigan sees virus surge, but tighter restrictions unlikely
Michigan, which not long ago had among the country’s lowest COVID-19 infection rates, is confronting an alarming spike that some public health experts worry could be a harbinger nationally
4:02PM ( 51 minutes ago )
Shipping losses mount from cargo vessel stuck in Suez Canal
Dredgers, tugboats and even a backhoe have failed to free a giant cargo ship wedged in Egypt’s Suez Canal as the number of stacked-up vessels unable to pass through the vital waterway climbed to 150 and losses to global shipping mounted
4:02PM ( 51 minutes ago )
'The world got dimmer': Shooting victims' lives remembered
One victim of the Colorado supermarket shooting was just leaving after fixing a coffee machine
3:52PM ( 1 hour ago )
AP National News
Snowboarders escaped monster avalanche, but not the law
Two Colorado snowboarders who triggered a slide that destroyed an expensive avalanche mitigation system have been charged with reckless endangerment, and prosecutors are seeking $168,000 in damages
4:37PM ( 17 minutes ago )
Lawyer: Colorado shooting suspect needs mental health review
The suspected gunman in the Boulder supermarket shooting has appeared in court for the first time
4:32PM ( 21 minutes ago )
Mass shooters exploited gun laws, loopholes before carnage
The suspects in the most recent shooting rampages found it relatively easy to get their guns
4:19PM ( 34 minutes ago )
Stocks pull mostly higher, shaking off some early wobbles
Stocks closed higher on Wall Street Thursday after shaking off some wobbles from earlier in the day
4:12PM ( 41 minutes ago )
The Latest: Kisner makes it 8 in a row and eliminates Thomas
Make it eight in a row for Kevin Kisner
4:11PM ( 42 minutes ago )