Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feuer said on Friday that his office would not file criminal charges against 179 people taken into custody during a March 25 protest over an uprooted homeless encampment.
City News Service reported that protesters, legal observers, and journalists “were arrested for failure to disperse during demonstrations against the city’s clearing of a large homeless encampment that had developed at Echo Park Lake during the COVID-19 pandemic.”
“Free speech and peaceful protest are fundamental to our democracy,” Feuer said in a statement released Friday afternoon. “These peaceful protesters did not threaten public safety and it would not be in the interest of justice to prosecute them.”
Feuer is a progressive Democrat who is running for mayor.
— Christian Monterrosa (@chrismatography) March 26, 2021
According to the L.A. Times, “The March 25 protest was over the city’s displacement of individuals experiencing homelessness and deconstruction of an encampment they had built on the banks of Echo Park.” The outlet reported, “The city had moved in with crews to clear the area and close the park for renovation, with Los Angeles Police officers there in large number to enforce the closure.”
The Times previously reported that “skirmishes erupted” between law enforcement and protesters and “bottles and other objects were thrown at officers.” Police said some demonstrators used high-intensity strobe lights in an attempt to blind them. Still, LAPD described the demonstration as “largely peaceful.”
— Chelsea Spero (@Chelsea_Spero) March 26, 2021
“The protesters failed to disperse, requiring officers to safely establish containment and begin detaining individuals one by one,” LAPD said in a statement at the time.
According to City News Service, “The Los Angeles Police Department came under fire from City Council members, the public and media representatives for detaining multiple journalists during the protests.” The outlet identified L.A. Times reporter James Queally, Spectrum News 1’s Kate Cagle, and two others covering the demonstration for an alternative progressive outlet called Knock L.A.
“Wait. I’m with Spectrum News 1.”
“I have to stay with my crew.”
— Kate Cagle (@KateCagle) March 26, 2021
About 200 transients who had been living in the park were forced to relocate. A progressive coalition of activist groups blamed Democratic Councilman Mitch O’Farrell, whose district includes Echo Park, for their displacement.
The park was closed for two months for extensive cleaning, repair, and renovation. The project cost more than $1 million. Sanitation crews had reportedly removed syringes, guns, machetes, and according to O’Farrell’s office, more than 700 pounds of biological waste.
When the park reopened to the public last month, city officials vowed to enforce a litany of rules moving forward, including a municipal code banning tents and camping in L.A. parks. Authorities said they would conduct nightly sweeps at 10:30, when the park would close until 5 a.m. the next day.
“Anybody that’s in the park will be removed from the park, either by their own volition, or if when we ask them to leave and if they don’t, they’ll be subject to arrest and or citation,” said Chief Park Rangers Joe Losorelli.
The park also retained the fence that was erected during renovation.
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