By Serran Soledad
On Wednesday morning, close to 500 people gathered at Echo Park Lake in defense of a homeless encampment scheduled to be cleared out by the City of Los Angeles. Protests spanned over two nights with the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) responding with force to repress protesters in order to erect gates around the park perimeter. Over 100 arrests were made on the second night, including journalists reporting on the scene.
The clearing of the Echo Park Lake camp was announced in an LA Times article a week prior, when City Council member Mitch O’Farrell revealed plans to clear out the park in preparation for renovations meant to serve real estate interests.
In response, Echo Park Rise Up, an organization created by those residing at the campsite, made a call-to-action to defend the encampment. Various organizations such as StreetWatch LA joined the mobilization in addition to hundreds of community members.
The ruling-class media have promoted O’Farrell and the City of Los Angeles’ claims that hotel vouchers have been provided to those residing in the campsite and that protests were misguided. However, residents of the encampment themselves have reported that only a select number of those who met the city’s bureaucratic criteria can actually receive the temporary shelter offered.
On the first night of protests, 400 police officers arrived in full-force to surround the park, armed with batons and ‘less-lethal’ shotguns rounds. Tear gas was deployed in an attempt to disperse the 200 remaining protesters who stood off with police on different ends of the park. A separate contingent extended the protest to O’Farrell’s house, with police protecting his home from the driveway and police helicopters flying overhead at both locations.
Audio recording was obtained of LAPD helicopter pilots joking about lighting protesters and the homeless on fire, “Great when they put fuel dumps on these helicopters,” one said. “I would have emptied them on Glendale Boulevard a long time ago,” responded the other, “I’ll bring the match.”
By the end of the first night, the police communicated to protesters over the megaphone that they had “won” the fight, and told them to go home. Protest leaders believed the bluff and called for the crowd to disperse. Once protesters left, police moved in and successfully gated the perimeter of the park and expelled those residing there. The sweep displaced over 100 residents of the camp, some of whom have faced long-term homelessness, with others more recently impacted by the 2020 economic crisis.
The following night, protests continued in response to the sweep, with hundreds standing off against SWAT police who showed up in greater numbers, brandishing zip ties in preparation for arrests.
Police pushed protesters back with batons, surrounding them from multiple ends of the park, arresting over 100 people, including legal observers and members of the press. Reports from social media say that that those arrested were put on buses and taken elsewhere to be cited, then released. Another group broke off to protest in front of O’Farrells house for a second time.
Such use of militarized force against protesters proves how ready the bourgeois state is to repress mobilizations of the people, particularly in order to enforce the ruling class’ goals of reconfiguring cities according to market forces and to sweep the issue of the homelessness caused by capitalist society out of sight.
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