A huge force of Los Angeles police officers in riot gear moved to clear a notorious town of homeless tents, sparking angry clashes with hundreds of protesters that continued into the early hours of Thursday.
Dozens of police officers moved to the Echo Park Lake camp at around 10 p.m. Wednesday, and were greeted by more than 200 protesters who had gathered all day to oppose the planned raid.
The protesters, a mix of homeless and activists, refused to budge as they chanted, “Whose park? Our park!
As hundreds of police officers, many with batons or projectile weapons, advanced slowly to sweep the area, violent clashes broke out with some of those who refused to yield, according to witnesses and police.
The Los Angeles police twice declared that it was an illegal gathering and repeatedly announced orders to leave. claiming on Twitter that the agents were “attacked with stones, bottles and smoke bombs.”
“At this time no use of force has been reported,” the force insisted with its own tactics.
The tense clashes lasted for hours, and by 12:30 a.m. some 40 protesters remained, watched by several hundred police officers, the Los Angeles Times reported.
“The Los Angeles Police Department continues to ask for calm and cooperation as the installation of fences continues in support of the Echo Park rehabilitation effort.” the force wrote in the early hours.
“Fences are being installed and the police will be there overnight.”
Officials allowed the homeless who lived there to stay overnight, but said “they will not be allowed in and out.” Everyone has to be out Thursday night, Chief Michel Moore told the LA Times.
Some of the homeless people who called the park home insisted that they will not leave, regardless of the consequences.
“I’m not leaving. They will arrest me and I will spend my time in jail,” Antonia Ramirez, 60, told The Associated Press.
She complained that “no notice was given” for the park’s closure, saying: “It is like a dictatorial and fascist regime.”
Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority executive director Heidi Marston also condemned the tactics.
“If you are going to close the park, be careful. It doesn’t mean we should take people by surprise, ”he told the LA Times.
“It eases fear, chaos and breaks the trust we build. It seems like it didn’t need to happen this way. “
City Councilman Mitch O’Farrell, whose district includes the neighborhood north of downtown, said the police they were asked to support “community security efforts” while the fence was being installed.
“Our homeless service providers will return tomorrow morning to continue their work with the park’s homeless residents to offer shelter and services to anyone who wants and needs assistance.” he wrote.
He supported the police action, saying that the cleanup of the park was not only yielding to the community’s demands on health and safety, but also for the betterment of the community of homeless people who camped there.
“A sweep is defined as moving someone indoors to a safe and clean environment where they will be provided free healthy meals, receive medical care and a path to wellness, then you can call it what you want,” O’Farrell told LA Times. .
“Because this is what we are doing for everyone who has been there for the last few weeks or months.”
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