Police Crack Down On Echo Park Lake Swap Meet Vendors

Updated with a response from Councilman Eric Garcetti's Office

LAPD officers swept through Echo Park Lake yesterday issuing warnings and citations to vendors who refused to leave the sprawling unregulated flea market, according to the Eastsider LA.

"We understand they are trying to make a living," Sgt. Joel Miller of LAPD's Rampart Divison told the Eastsider LA. "But the park wasn't mean't to be a swap meet."

Miller said he was enforcing section 42.41.1 of the Los Angeles Municipal Code, which bars individuals from selling on any city-owned property without "written permission from the head of the department having jurisdiction or grounds where the solicitation is to be made."

The crackdown comes after reps from Councilman Eric Garcetti's Office and the District City Attorney claimed that they could not stop the swap meet until a pending lawsuit by vendors in Venice against the city of Los Angeles was resolved.

Garcetti's represenative Alejandra Marroquin explained in a written statement that Venice vendors sued the city claiming they were infringing on their First Amendment rights after the city tried to enforce a no-vending policy on park property. Here's part of Marroquin's statement (via Echo Park Now), which reads:

Unfortunately, this was as a result of a lawsuit that was filed against the City of LA by a group of Venice Beach vendors who sued the City for "violating their First Amendment Rights" when the City was enforcing no-vending at this location. Those vendors claimed that they had a right to free speech among other rights and the courts established that their lawsuit had merit. The Judge overseeing that case found that the Municipal Code that was being used to enforce no vending was too broad and found that it caused for too many interpretations. He subsequently recommended the suspension of the code which limits the City's ability to do any kind of legal enforcement on all park properties under the Jurisdiction of the Department of Rec and Parks. Without an active law that states that enforcement can take place, the City is unable to enforce no-vending on park properties...

In response to police actions yesterday, Councilman Eric Garcetti's office sent the Weekly this statement:

Turning Echo Park into a marketplace forces kids to play in the

street. A city like Los Angeles cannot afford to lose what little

public green space we have. In a dense, urban community like the one

surrounding Echo Park, the need is even greater. This is a

neighborhood where backyards are a luxury. Echo Park serves families

who have few options where their kids can safely play. My office is

working with city departments to protect the park despite litigation

that has hampered enforcement. One solution is to step-up enforcement

of laws not affected by the pending litigation. This weekend's action

sent a loud and clear signal that we're going to protect Echo Park for

families, not commercial activity. At the same time, in these

difficult economic times, we have been working with local non-profits,

community development groups, and others to provide technical and

other support to help aspiring small business owners establish

legitimate businesses, while at the same time protecting public

safety, public health and our neighborhood parks.

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