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Protestors disrupt Los Angeles City Council meeting as members vote to ban homeless encampments near schools

LA City Council passes ban on homeless encampments near schools
LA City Council passes ban on homeless encampments near schools 02:45

For the third and final time, Los Angeles City Council voted on a measure to ban homeless encampments within 500 feet of schools and daycare centers on Tuesday. After two previous votes, both of which came out in favor of the ordinance, a procedural issue caused a rare third vote. 

"This is definitely not about solving homelessness. It never was. It's about protecting children," said Councilmember Mitch O'Farrell.

The primary vote took place in July, where council members voted 10-1 in favor of banning the encampments, opposed only by Councilman Mike Bonin. Since the measure did not receive unanimous approval, it was forced to undergo a second vote last Tuesday, again passing, 11-3. Bonin was joined by Councilwoman Nithya Raman and Councilman Marqueece Harris-Dawson in dissenting. 

In most circumstances, this would mark the final approval, however, according to officials, a third vote was forced due to a procedural issue. 

Again on Tuesday, an 11-3 vote approved the ordinance, but not without some backlash. 

For the second straight week, dozens of homeless rights activists gathered outside of L.A. City Hall to voice their displeasure with the ordinance. Tuesday saw members of Services Not Sweeps, a local housing coalition, gathered out front of City Hall for a news conference.

"What this legislation does, is it moves people around from block to block, from district to district," said Ashley Bennett, one of the many homeless advocates rallying out front of City Hall. 

Martha Escudero whose family used to be unhoused and says that instead of giving them more rules, people living on the street need more compassion. 

"That really is not keeping anyone safe," she said. "Especially unhoused children. They're putting them in darker corners where they're obscure and then they are more prone to violence and death."

Protestors argued that a more permanent solution for housing would provide a more reasonable response over criminalizing homelessness in another part of Los Angeles. 

"There's a housing crisis in LA, that even with dual income people cannot even afford to rent a home," Escudero said. 

"Demand permanent housing and then you won't have encampments near your schools," Bennett agreed. "Seems like a simple solution to me."

According to some homeless advocates, a 500-foot radius around every school would section off nearly 20% of the city. 

During the meeting, protestors once again disrupted the processions, forcing a recess before council members could vote. Los Angeles Police Department officers, some reportedly wearing riot gear, were forced to clear the chambers again due to the protests. 

Last week's meeting was met with much of the same fervor, as an hour-long disruption halted the meeting as protestors chanted and shouted at council members. Eventually, police cleared the chambers, leaving just media and council members. 

The measure is an amendment to Municipal Code 41.18, already in place, which prohibits sitting, sleeping lying or otherwise obstructing the public right of way in several areas of Los Angeles. Under the change, all "sensitive" facilities would fall under the realm of the measure, which includes schools, daycare centers, parks and libraries.

Those who violate the measure will either be cited or face an infraction, though in extreme cases can be charged with a misdemeanor or faced with higher fines. 

"Our students are already traumatized with social-economic issues," said Councilmember Joe Buscaino. "They should not be exposed to sex acts. They should not be exposed open drug use. They should not be exposed to psychotic behavior."

District 15 Councilman Buscaino originally proposed the idea in 2021, though it never gained enough traction to reach a vote. The measure was revived earlier this year, thanks in part to Los Angeles Unified School District Superintendent Alberto Carvalho, based on the concerns of students, teachers and parents. 

"I've seen elementary schools with conditions that none of us as parents would find acceptable for children. Individuals with mental illness, some of them absolutely unclothed, shouting profanities in the listening ear of children," Carvalho previously told council when addressing the topic. 

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