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A progressive coalition of activist groups in Los Angeles have targeted Democratic City Councilman Mitch O’Farrell, blaming him for the relocation of about 200 homeless people who were part of an encampment that had taken over a public park in his district.
Homeless advocates swarmed O’Farrell on Wednesday afternoon as Echo Park Lake officially reopened after two months of undergoing 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.
Demonstrators chanted, “Shame on Mitch” and called for his resignation. Staffers tried to shield O’Farrell as the activists shouted and followed him around the park before the councilman retreated to his office a block away.
“This is going to be your legacy, Mitch,” one attendee loudly predicted.
They accused O’Farrell of sending LAPD to the 29-acre park in March to sweep homeless people out of the area, resulting in officers clashing with protesters after police issued a dispersal order. O’Farrell claimed no one was forcibly removed by law enforcement. The protest group included activists representing People’s City Council – Los Angeles, an ally of Black Lives Matter’s L.A. chapter.
Mitch thought he could show his face in public and not have to hear from the people. Well, @MitchOFarrell and his staff got chased out of the park. This is what it’s going to be like, Mitch! #MitchWatch #ResignMitch https://t.co/XsX6Yc7XhF
— People's City Council – Los Angeles (@PplsCityCouncil) May 27, 2021
“Mitch thought he could show his face in public and not have to hear from the people,” tweeted People’s City Council-L.A., while suggesting that the bird-dogging would continue. “Well, @MitchOFarrell and his staff got chased out of the park. This is what it’s going to be like, Mitch! #MitchWatch #ResignMitch”
Albert Corado, an organizer with People’s City Council-L.A., seeks to unseat O’Farrell when he is up for re-election in 2022. Allies circulated a video of Corado on social media confronting O’Farrell during his brief appearance at the park on Wednesday.
Got to ask Mitch some questions but he wouldn't answer them. Then his staffer tried to tell me me I was lying about what happened at Echo Park back in March. Then we ran his ass out of Echo Park back to his office while he had a police escort pic.twitter.com/HkJC1kCk02
— AL for LA (Albert Corado) (@ALforLA2022) May 26, 2021
The activists pointed out the new, larger signs displaying a litany of rules governing the park, which city officials vowed to enforce moving forward. That includes the municipal code banning tents and camping in L.A. parks.
We’re now in.
Here are the rules.
Park is closed from 10:30PM – 5:00 AM and enforcement that any personal belongings will be removed. pic.twitter.com/LXf9vlfUGn
— People's City Council – Los Angeles (@PplsCityCouncil) May 26, 2021
Chief Park Ranger Joe Losorelli said authorities would conduct sweeps every night at 10:30, when the park will 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 they don’t, they’ll be subject to arrest and or citation,” he said.
According to LAist, “the park will also retain the fence that was erected during the renovation, adding four gates that can be closed at night to make enforcing anti-camping laws easier.”
Street Watch LA, a group affiliated with the Democratic Socialists of America, said the park’s new security measures have created an atmosphere that resembles a prison yard. Officials installed cameras that O’Farrell’s office says cover “every inch of the park” that the city will monitor, while 24-hour security will guard the area for a temporary period of time.
Bike cops, horse cops, undercover cops, and undercover cameras will now patrol Echo Park Lake daily while Mitch’s fences and guarded entrances banish not only unhoused people, but street vendors. #EchoParkPrisonYard pic.twitter.com/nWdAZeFcXP
— Street Watch LA (@StreetWatchLA) May 27, 2021
“For over a year, my team worked tirelessly to provide resources, services and ultimately transitional housing to people experiencing homelessness at Echo Park Lake,” O’Farrell said earlier this month. “As time went on, conditions at the park became increasingly unsafe for everyone — park visitors and park dwellers. Echo Park Lake is a shared public space, and unhoused people were existing in inhumane conditions — which is why every single person experiencing homelessness in the park was offered transitional housing and services.”
According to Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority, most of the homeless people forced out of the park in March accepted temporary housing.