Echo Park -- Criminal charges will not be filed against the 179 protesters, legal observers and journalists who were arrested for failure to disperse during demonstrations against the city's clearing of a large homeless encampment that had developed at Echo Park Lake during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Following the demonstration on March 25, the Los Angeles Police Department reported that 182 people were arrested. It was not immediately clear if charges were brought against the remaining three people, but the Rob Wilcox of the City Attorney's Office told City News Service that all people arrested for failure to disperse will not face the charge.
"Free speech and peaceful protest are fundamental to our democracy," Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feuer said in a statement this afternoon. "These peaceful protesters did not threaten public safety and it would not be in the interest of justice to prosecute them."
Word spread on March 22 that the park would be closed for repairs, but many in the community saw it as a veiled effort to remove the hundreds of unhoused Angelenos who took up residence in the park. The park underwent $600,0000 worth of cleaning and repairs before reopening to the public on May 26.
Protesters blasted the city for forcing the park's homeless population out of an area that had grown into what they called a supportive community - - including a vegetable garden, working showers and shared kitchen. The city's actions, however, were praised by some in the neighborhood, as many neighbors had complained about increasing trash at the park, and said they no longer felt safe there.
The Los Angeles Police Department came under fire from City Council members, the public and media representatives for detaining multiple journalists during the protests, including Los Angeles Times reporter James Queally, who had LAPD credentials, and Spectrum News 1's Kate Cagle, who had Los Angeles County credentials. Knock L.A. journalists Jonathan Peltz and Kate Gallagher were also detained.
The Los Angeles City Council on May 5 requested a report from the LAPD on officers' detention of journalists during the protests and the department's broader conduct toward journalists.
"The right of a free press to cover demonstrations, political protest and police activity is essential to a functioning democracy and must be preserved," stated the motion, which was introduced by Councilmen Mike Bonin and Kevin de Leon.