Hundreds of protesters and dozens of LAPD officers filled the streets Wednesday night as the city began its closure of Echo Park Lake for renovations.
Several protesters arrived at Echo Park Lake Wednesday morning, fearing for the displacement of the area’s homeless community. They held signs and marched the streets to Councilman Mitch O’Farrell’s office, who represents the 13th district of Los Angeles.
Protesters had planned to camp through the night as reports said the park’s closure could begin as soon as Thursday.
At approximately 8 p.m. videos posted to social media showed a sea of police officers converge on the area, trucks carrying loads of fencing to the lake and the large groups of protesters chanting “these are our neighbors.”
Councilman O’Farrell addressed the police presence at Echo Park Lake, posting a tweet at 10:24 p.m., saying the police were asked to be there for “safety efforts” while the fencing was put up.
“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,” O’Farrell said. “Department personnel are deployed in that area so that those efforts can begin in a safe and unimpeded manner.”
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.
Department personnel are deployed in that area so that those efforts can begin in a safe and unimpeded manner. pic.twitter.com/9V1lsXpZAC
— Mitch O'Farrell (@MitchOFarrell) March 25, 2021
Streets that bordered the Echo Park Lake were covered with yellow tape and LAPD officers telling people they could not pass through. Buses for arrest transports were also seen in the area.
“Police officers have come in the dark of night to remove the unhoused community,” Activist Theo Henderson said in video documenting the scene at Echo Park Lake. “They have three police arrest buses, they have two trucks of fencing, as well as over 60 officers converging on different vantage points to cattle the protesters, as well as arrest them.”
LAPD declared two unlawful assemblies in the area and asked people to disperse. Police also said while fencing was going up, people were allowed remain in the area.
“For clarification, the fencing is being installed tonight and people currently in the park will be allowed to stay overnight, but will not be allowed to come and go,” LAPD announced through Twitter. “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.”
People on the ground said officers used tear gas, but the department refuted that, saying no force had been used.
As the midnight hour came, LAPD said it had created a “protest zone” on Glendale Boulevard.
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
Early Wednesday, Mayor Eric Garcetti spoke on the Echo Park protest and said that the city would not allow a single homeless individual in the area to be displaced.
“I’m very proud that we have place for every single person to be… a safe hotel room,” Garcetti said. “This is exactly what we need whether it’s public works improvement like at the lake, or whether it’s longer term in communities where we have long-term encampments. 100% of the people there have a room to sleep in.”
Garcetti said he believed formal notice should be given to people in the area and LAPD Chief Michel Moore said a 24-hour notice had been issued as of Wednesday night.