Remaining homeless people told to leave fenced-off Echo Park Lake; LAPD detains dozens of protesters

The remaining homeless people living along Echo Park Lake were to leave by 10:30 p.m. as police continued to clash with protesters for a second night Thursday over the clearing of the long-running encampment there. 

Los Angeles police declared an unlawful assembly shortly after 8 p.m. to begin clearing a crowd of about 250 protesters and media from the area of Lemoyne Street and Park Avenue, after some demonstrators began flashing lights at officers in riot gear.

Los Angeles Times reporter James Queally tweeted that LAPD delcared everyone in the area was “under arrest and no longer free to leave.”

LAPD said a “designated protest area” was set up on Glendale Boulevard north of Park Avenue.

At about 8:45 p.m., the L.A. Times shared video from another reporter appearing to show Queally being taken into custody. The Times said it was working to verify reports of his arrest. Then at 9:24 p.m., another Times reporter tweeted that Queally had been released.

Spectrum News reporter Kate Cagle also tweeted video of herself being carried away from the crowd by police officers.

Another reporter in the crowd, Lexis-Oliver Ray of L.A. Taco, said multiple legal observers were also detained. Ray shared video of officers violently arresting a protester as they aimed less-lethal rounds toward the crowd and eye level.

Sky5 arrived above the scene around 9:15 p.m. as officers were handcuffing dozens of protesters remaining on Park Avenue one by one. They did not resist, and the group was removed by 10:30 p.m.

Police were also stationed throughout other parts of the neighborhood, which appeared to be empty except for officers.

Multiple black law enforcement buses were brought in to cart away demonstrators en masse. Officers were seen carrying some protesters away by their arms and legs.

LAPD could not immediately confirm how many demonstrators were detained or arrested.

Sky5 had been over the scene at 6 p.m., as dozens of protesters blocked the intersection of Sunset Boulevard and Lemoyne Street. By 6:45 p.m., people began marching east down Sunset past Echo Park Avenue.

Another group of demonstrators was further south on Lemoyne, where police had set up a skirmish line. Sky5 left the scene at 7 p.m., at which point the protest had remained peaceful.

A heavy police presence was still in place on Glendale Boulevard and Park Avenue Thursday morning as a fence was put up to close off the park, and protesters were still in the area, as well.

Roughly 30 to 40 tents could still be seen scattered behind the fencing but the people living in those tents were told they would have to leave.

“No one else may enter. 24 hr notice for those in the park to leave. Housing resources are being provided to everyone,” Los Angeles police Chief Michel Moore tweeted shortly before midnight Wednesday.

Police attempting to clear the encampment Wednesday night were met by several hundred protesters who believe it is wrong to move homeless residents out of the park.

LAPD declared two unlawful assemblies and gave an order to disperse from Santa Ynez Street and Glendale Boulevard. Police said officers were being assaulted with rocks, bottles and smoke bombs.

An L.A. Times reporter at the scene said he witnessed police firing from a “launcher,” and a freelance journalist who was there not as a reporter said an officer wielding a baton left him with a broken arm.

Some pushing and shoving was seen on video between police and protesters as smoke filled the air.

Police later dismissed social media reports that “tear gas” was deployed, saying instead the smoke was caused by incendiary devices utilized by demonstrators.

One person, later identified as 26-year old Nicole Partori, was arrested for failing to comply with orders from a police officer, the Police Department stated in news release. Partori was cited and released.

Two use-of-force complaints were made but no injuries to demonstrators or officers were reported, according to the Police Department.

In the days leading up to the confrontation, city workers started posting signs that those living in the park would need to pack up their belongings and leave. Nonetheless, there was no clear timeline given, leading to complaints of lack of transparency and poor communication.

Neighbors have complained about drug use, crime and trash from the 200-plus tents surrounding Echo Park Lake, though many have also been critical of Councilman Mitch O’Farrell’s response and how he handled the sweep.

An online petition on Change.org titled “Save Echo Park Lake” describes the park as “virtually unusable” and states it is “becoming Skid Row.” It calls on city officials to “restore the lake and build housing.”

O’Farrell said in a previous statement that the park’s closure will allow for repairs to lighting, plumbing and other much-needed improvements.

On Thursday, O’Farrell spoke during a news conference and described the operation as “very successful.” He said that 161 individuals experiencing homelessness, plus five more who were in transit to state-funded hotel rooms Thursday morning, would be provided safe shelter that included three meals a day, medical services if needed and other supportive services.

O’Farrell insisted the park would not be closed indefinitely, but expects it to take between three to five weeks for maintenance and repair workers to complete nearly $500,000 of work.

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