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Criminal Charges Will Not Be Filed Against Protesters, Journalists Arrested At Echo Park

LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) — Criminal charges will not be filed against the 179 protesters, legal observers and journalists arrested on suspicion of failing to disperse during demonstrations against the city's clearing of a large encampment at Echo Park Lake.

People Protest Removal of Homeless Encampment in LA's Echo Park
LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - MARCH 25: Protesters demonstrate on Sunset Boulevard against the removal of a homeless encampment at Echo Park Lake on March 25, 2021 in Los Angeles, California. People who were living in tents during the pandemic at the park were asked to leave by officials recently. The park was fenced off yesterday evening and a cleanup of the area began today. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)

Following the March 25 demonstration, the Los Angeles Police Department said 182 people had been arrested. It was not immediately clear if charges were brought against the remaining three people, but the City Attorney's Office said anyone arrested for failure to disperse would not face that charge.

"Free speech and peaceful protest are fundamental to our democracy," Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feuer said Friday in a statement. "These peaceful protesters did not threaten public safety and it would not be in the interest of justice to prosecute them."

The protests were sparked after word spread that the city would be closing the park for repairs, forcing the removal of the hundreds of unhoused Angelenos who were living in the park. After a few tense days, the park was closed and underwent $600,000 worth of cleaning and repairs before reopening late last month.

Protesters blasted the city for forcing the park's residents out of an area that they said had grown into a supportive community with a vegetable garden, working showers and a shared kitchen.

And LAPD came under fire from members of the Los Angeles City Council, the public and media representatives for detaining multiple journalists during the protests, including Los Angeles Times reporter James Queally, Spectrum News 1's Kate Cagle and Knock L.A. journalists Jonathan Peltz and Kate

And while many decried the removal of the park's residents, some in the neighborhood praised the city's actions for clearing out what they said was increasing trash at the park and making it safer for residents to use the area for recreation.

However, opponents of the park's clearing — including a coalition of faculty at USC, UCLA, UC Irvine and Occidental College — pointed out that most of the housing options were temporary and some were in congregate shelters amid a pandemic, even though Councilman Mitch O'Farrell and Mayor Eric Garcetti called the operation a success.

"First, placements into interim shelter must not be equated with housing people," the faculty stated in a letter to the city on March 31. "Without a clear path to permanent housing, such temporary housing serves as yet one more stop in the endless cycle of displacement. Many of the Echo Park Lake placements were made to Project Roomkey hotels and motels, in locations as distant as Palmdale."

(© Copyright 2021 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. City News Service contributed to this report.)

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