LAPD cops in riot gear descended on a huge homeless encampment at Los Angeles’ Echo Park to clear out the area, but were repelled by around 200 protesters defending the community as scuffles broke out.
Over the last few months, the encampment has grown to nearly 200 tents and covers nearly half the park, with residents living in the area concerned about drug use, crime and the increasing amount of trash.
The officers, armed with batons and rifles, carried out the planned sweep on Wednesday night but were met by more than 200 protesters who refused to leave the area, the Los Angeles Times reported.
Around 10.30 p.m. on Wednesday, officers told protesters to disperse and then called it an ‘unlawful assembly’ when most refused. Officers were seen pushing several protesters as they tried to move them away from the area.
Protesters – a mix of the homeless community living in the park and activists who have joined their cause – chanted ‘whose park? our park’ as the LAPD ordered them to ‘clear the area’ over a loudspeaker.
The issue of the homeless encampment at Echo Park has become a ‘highly charged test of city leaders’ struggle to balance residents’ demands for clean streets and public spaces as it battles to contain its growing homeless problem, the Times reported.
A city-wide tactical alert was issued on Wednesday night, as the protesters rallied against plans to permanently disperse those living in the park and close the area for what is being touted as more than $500,000 in repairs.
By Thursday morning, the crowd had reduced in size, and the protest had largely wound down.
While the city has closed other, larger homeless encampments with less resistance, the future of the camp at Echo Park is proving to be a point of conflict in its on-going struggle with the homelessness epidemic.
Probably close to 400 LAPD officers spread out all throughout Echo Park Lake, over 100 police cars (packed w/ 4 cops each), 3 busses, 2 helicopters, & other city departments getting ready to throw people's belongings, etc. Tax dollars spent to criminalize poverty.#EchoParkRiseUp pic.twitter.com/ADjD4LBKxh— Kenneth Mejia (@kennethmejiaLA) March 25, 2021
According to data from Economic Roundtable, the Pandemic Recession is projected to cause twice as much homelessness as the 2008 Great Recession.
Homeless people in the United States have been hit particularly hard by the Covid-19 pandemic.
While research has shown that homeless people have been surprisingly resilient to infection, research shows that those that do catch the virus are 30 percent more likely to die than those in the general population, according to The Times.