On Sunday, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department (LASD) cleared Grand Park, a large park across from Los Angeles City Hall, of all protesters and demonstrators, ending a four-month-long encampment in the area.
The end of a four-month old protest encampment
The Grand Park encampment had been around since early June, forming during the George Floyd protests. Black Unity L.A., a Los Angeles based protest group, had been running the encampment despite previous calls by law enforcement for those there to disperse.
In the last few weeks, hundreds of protesters went to the encampment to protest the killing of Dijon Kizzee, leading authorities to fire non-lethal rounds at protesters due to unrest.
According to Los Angeles law enforcement groups, the additional protesters and unrest led to worsening conditions, including a build up of debris, illegal narcotic activity, and a rise in crime such as graffiti, bonfires, and vandalism. Many groups and citizens in LA, including the downtown L.A. Neighborhood Council had disapproved of the camp, citing it’s noise, health concerns, homeless concerns, and other issues. A reported sexual assault nearby the camp had only further fueled the concerns with the camp.
With the park no longer being deemed safe for the public, the Sheriff’s Department authorized the 3 A.M. clear out on Sunday morning.
“The demeanor and behavior exhibited by the occupying protesters has evolved from a peaceful protest to an occupied park which is no longer safe for the public to enter,” according to a statement by the Sheriff’s Department. “Numerous tents have also been placed in the children’s playground area and one the children outdoor equipment preventing children from enjoying and participating in physical activity with their families and other children within that portion of the park area.”
The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department’s County Services Bureau also released a statement saying “Grand Park will be closed for the time being while the landscaping is restored, restroom facilities are renovated, graffiti removed, necessary maintenance and repairs are completed and the trash and debris left behind from their fortified encampment is removed.”
The clear out, protester backlash
The clearing out took several hours. Many protesters and homeless people had set up tents and shelters in the park over the last few months, with at least 25 protesters and 11 homeless people being present in the encampment when it was swept by law enforcement.
Many activists and journalists covered the clearing out Sunday morning, with some, including the noted labor activist and journalist Talia Ben-Ora being arrested while filming officers securing the area.
On 13-Sep, minutes after LAPD assaulted and arrested reporter Sean Beckner-Carmitchel, the same officers arrested the reporter who documented their assault.
— Chad Loder (@chadloder) September 13, 2020
Activists and protest groups fired back that the encampment was clean and posed no danger to the public. Instead, many blamed the LASD cracking down on the encampment as retaliation over two deputies being shot in Compton the night before.
“There was nothing wrong at Grand,” Los Angeles activist Daylee Miller said to the Globe. “I protested there for several days on and off this summer. It wasn’t a shantytown nightmare they’re trying to make it to be. It was a place to go if you needed help. We were all there fighting for racial justice and defunding the police and wanting better accountability. There were even movie nights.”
“The police needed a way to strike back quick, and removing them was the easiest way. By the time I got out there at 11 A.M. it was all over and they were just hauling everything away. It’s hard to believe it’s gone now.”
Grand Park fenced off, local residents relieved
Despite some initial resistance, police had largely taken back control of the park by daybreak. Protesters belongings left behind, including a large cache of food and water collected by Black Unity L.A., were confiscated by the LASD and carted off, leading to many of those living in the encampment to complain that they had just taken everything that they owned.
By noon, signs had been posted around the park warning of the illegal encampment, with a fence being erected around the park to deter the return of protesters. Many residents and business owners nearby, despite showing some sympathy for the protesters, said that this was for the best.
“Everyday I was afraid one of them was going to jump me or hurt me,” said nearby resident Catherine Russell to the Globe. “They were all gathered there illegally, and we kept hearing all of these police reports of what was going on there.”
“I’m glad they are gone and I’m glad to be safe again. I’m not the biggest fan of the police in this city, but they won a few points in my book for clearing them out today.”
“Maybe other cities will take LA’s lead on removing protest people camping out like this.”
Grand Park will be closed for at least the near future as restoration efforts are expected to begin soon.
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