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LAPD Declares Unlawful Assembly As Protesters, Police Face Off At Echo Park Lake Over Homeless Encampment Removal

LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) — The Los Angeles Police Department Wednesday night ordered a citywide tactical alert after protesters and officers faced off at Echo Park Lake over the city's plan to close the park and remove the homeless encampment.

Echo Park Lake Protest
Police issued a dispersal order for the late night protest shortly before 10:45 p.m., declaring the demonstration an unlawful assembly. (CBSLA)

"The Los Angeles Police Department was asked to support community safety efforts during installation of the fencing to assist in the rehabilitation of Echo Park," Councilman Mitch O'Farrell, whose district includes the park, said in a statement. "Department personnel are deployed in that area so that those efforts can begin in a safe and unimpeded manner.

"Our homeless service providers will return tomorrow morning to continue their work with the park's unhoused residents to offer shelter and services to anyone who wants and needs the assistance," the statement continued.

Police issued a dispersal order for the late night protest shortly before 10:45 p.m., declaring the demonstration an unlawful assembly.

In a tweet, LAPD called for people to calmly disperse from the area.

"The Los Angeles Police Department continues to ask for calm and cooperation as the installation of fencing in support of the Echo Park rehabilitation effort continues," the tweet said. "Unfortunately officers have received projectiles and refusals from individuals blocking streets in the area."

The department also said that no use of force was reported. The tactical alert was canceled at 1:25 a.m. Thursday.

Down the street near Dodger Stadium, a number of trucks were staged with fencing that workers confirmed was going to be used to start fencing off the park as soon as police cleared the way.

Earlier in the day, hundreds rallied against the plan to temporarily close Echo Park Lake in order to remove the large-scale encampment and clean up an estimated $500,000 in damage.

LA May Shut Down Echo Park Lake To Clear Out Homeless Encampments; Activists Hold March
Dozens of people were rallying on March 24, 2021, against a plan to temporarily close Echo Park Lake in Los Angeles in order to remove homeless encampments and clean up an estimated $500,000 in damage. (CBSLA)

The group of demonstrators marched from the park to O'Farrell's office, shutting down a portion of Sunset Boulevard a little before 8 a.m. Several hundred eventually returned to Echo Park Lake, vowing to remain if the city tried to push out the unhoused population.

"They want these people out of here, out of the park, yeah, they're going to get involved just to go to a hotel," community activist Carlos Marroquin told CBSLA Wednesday. "But what happens after that? Those vouchers are not permanent, they're temporary."

According to officials, the city has been working to get the more than 100 people who live in the park into shelters and temporary housing.

In January and February of 2020, the city attempted similar cleanup efforts that were also met with large protests.

"What we learned last year when we fought is that the vast majority of people get it, they get it, they get that they could be in this situation, that that could be your mother or your brother, and they support us," Ayman Ahmed with Echo Park Rises Up told CBSLA Tuesday.

Supporters also called into Tuesday's L.A. City Council meeting to oppose the move to close the park.

"I believe that people who don't own homes or who aren't wealthy or don't have a special interest are residents and are equally valued members of this community," Echo Park Neighborhood Council President Zarinah Williams, who called into the City Council meeting Tuesday, said to O'Farrell.

But others who live near the park say it's long overdue for the city to clean it up.

"I personally have not visited the park in over a year because it doesn't feel sanitary or safe," one woman told City News Service. "I also worry that the $45 million investment the city made to rehabilitate the park is being wasted."

O'Farrell spoke to KNX Radio saying, "There have been four deaths at the lake, several overdoses. There have been assaults, including sexual assaults. Reports from housed and unhoused people in the area of animal abuse."

The city also said it has offered to tag and store people's belongings.

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