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The homeless camp in LA is evicted amid taunts and shoves

Night fell on Thursday as cleaning crews had to halt work to clear a homeless encampment in a square in Little Tokyo.

A protester had jumped into a plumbing truck and refused to get out. She cursed and yelled at the sanitation workers for tearing down the camp. By then, most of the homeless had been temporarily housed or relocated to the sidewalk.

The 10-minute standoff was one of several clashes that continued after midnight as cleaners attempted to clear and fence off Toriumi Square, reflecting tensions in a city where there is little consensus over how the homeless crisis has been dealt with shall be.

The protesters targeted city and borough employees and even got into a shoving altercation with an aide of City Councilman Kevin de León, who had led efforts to clear the camp in his borough and provide some form of housing for people.

Pete Brown, De León’s communications director, said outreach workers from the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority have placed 45 people in temporary housing, including hotel rooms through Project RoomKey, part of the state’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic Homeless to get in temporary shelters.

That number was in addition to the 61 people the workers had already helped move to short-term housing since February 16, bringing the total to 106 people, according to Brown.

“It was a very successful night,” Brown said Thursday night.

“I think today was very successful because the overall goal was to secure housing for our homeless neighbors,” De León said in a phone interview Thursday night. “And the overwhelming majority of our homeless neighbors in the plaza have accepted housing and that’s a good thing for our community.”

People on a street at night.

Volunteers help people displaced by the clearance of Toriumi Square in Little Tokyo.

(Jason Armond/Los Angeles Times)

Homeless people began camping in the square two years ago at the start of the pandemic. The city allowed the camp to stay because it followed the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines.

Local residents and business owners said there were no problems at first, but over time the camp grew larger and more restless.

Brian Kito, a business owner and president of Little Tokyo Public Safety Assn., said he saw drug use, fires and fights break out at the camp. He took a few with his cell phone.

“There have been a number of overdoses on the pitch,” he said. “The fire department responded fairly regularly.”

The complaints caught the attention of De León, who was moving to house people in apartments so repairs could be made in the space, which is located on an underground parking lot at the corner of 1st Street and Judge John Aiso Street.

Brown said outreach workers began visiting on February 16. Her plans to clear the camp angered activists with J-Town Action and Solidarity. The grassroots community said it spent more than a year providing residents of the square with hot meals, personal protective equipment and clothing.

Steven Chun, an organizer for the group, said their protest was partly to protect residents’ rights Campers who don’t necessarily want hotel rooms, shelters or tiny homes because they are strictly controlled.

“They feel like prisoners and caged animals,” Chun said.

J-Town Action and Solidarity wanted the camp’s closure lifted and for the city to offer more services to the homeless living in tents until permanent housing is available.

When the group learned the site was to be cleared and fenced off, they began mobilizing on social media. Members held a rally on March 13 to raise awareness and garner more support.

The group, along with other homeless organizations including We the Unhoused and Street Watch, came to the plaza Thursday morning and posted signs to a metal barrier the city had put up around the camp.

For most of the day, activists vacillated between helping the homeless and shaming field workers, cleaners and city employees who were there to help with the cleanup.

By 8 p.m., only five homeless people remained in the square, two hours before the eviction deadline. But disturbances from activists earlier in the day had delayed the clean-up effort.

Throughout the night, activists helped the camp’s remaining residents move their items onto the sidewalk. Things were mostly peaceful until 11 p.m. when activists and Brown got into a push battle. There were no arrests.

Just after midnight, Los Angeles Police Department officers entered the plaza and told activists to stay outside the cordon. They began escorting at least three of them while others used their phones to record interactions with police and shout epithets at the officers.

Two homeless people began packing items in plastic bags and pitched their tents on the sidewalk along with others who had declined short-term accommodation. All were in their tents, sleeping amidst the early morning calls.

https://www.latimes.com/california/story/2022-03-18/sanitation-crews-clear-homeless-encampment-in-toriumi-plaza The homeless camp in LA is evicted amid taunts and shoves

Dais Johnston

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