Increased Sweeps on Homeless Encampments Follow COVID Restrictions Lessening in Los Angeles
In the past months there have been massive encampment sweeps with removal and confiscation of all possessions belonging to the homeless residents in Echo Park by the LAPD. Not only have these residents been displaced without being able to secure their possessions, over 200 tents removed, but there is no plan for where they can find shelter or instruction from LAPD for next steps of their lives. It has been a year since the CDC advised against these types of disruptive sweeps due to the fear of increasing the spread of COVID.
Now that COVID restrictions are lessening, City Council member Mitch O’Farrell has championed these sweeps almost immediately.
In addition, the Echo Park sweep was conducted without a 24 hour notice for the homeless residents that a sweep was going to be made. Instead, the park was closed after LAPD had already entrapped protestors, and fenced in the entire park - with many trapped inside.
According to Jack Ross with LA Progressive, "Police officers at the fence gates would not let unhoused residents leave and return during the supposed 24-hour grace period when they were meant to gather their belongings, according to park residents. Those who earlier fled the site say they could not reenter to collect their items, possibly violating Fourth Amendment protections against unreasonable search and seizure, the basis of the Mitchell decision and the city’s 24-hour warning rule”.
The 180 protestors who were arrested that night just had all their criminal charges dropped, thanks to the work from The National Lawyers Guild of Los Angeles and Street Watch LA, this means large sums of money and resources were spent and wasted on these arrests as well.
The danger lies in knowing that there is no plan made for the lives of the displaced after a
sweep. Project Roomkey is only a temporary solution made during COVID era, to address the reduction of spread of COVID within the homeless community. This has also failed already.
According Ross “Los Angeles has fallen well short of its initial goal to house 15,000 homeless Angelenos vulnerable to the coronavirus; currently, only 1,693 occupy hotel rooms under the program”. When this program expires, it is still unclea r where the residents of Echo Park will be able to go. There is also fear from homeless communities in Venice beach and those opposed to these sweeps, that Venice will be the next location to experience this post COVID massive sweep.