Los Angeles park fenced off after clashes between police, protesters over homeless encampment

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(KTLA) — The remaining homeless people living along Echo Park Lake in Los Angeles were given 24 hours to leave after protesters clashed with police Wednesday night over a controversial plan to clear the long-running encampment there. 

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. 

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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