A chain-link fence around Echo Park Lake was taken down on Sunday night in what L.A. City Councilman Mitch O’Farrell condemned Monday as “acts of vandalism.”
Around 300 feet of fencing was cut and strewn around the park, and park rangers are undertaking a criminal investigation, though there were no known suspects as of Monday, a police spokesperson told the Los Angeles Times.
Photos posted to social media by Knock LA on Sunday night show fencing on the ground, with signs reading “Community De-Fence!” and “People’s Park LA Welcomes U” draped in the park.
“The needs and wants of the Echo Park community will drive any decisions at Echo Park Lake, not acts of vandalism,” O’Farrell said in a statement.
Echo Park was closed for two months last year for a cleanup operation following the relocation of about 200 homeless people who had taken up residence there.
O’Farrell, who came under fire from many homeless advocates during and after the clearing of the park’s encampment, has championed the effort as “a very successful housing operation.”
Days before the closure, his office announced the city was planning to close the park and clear out its residents to perform more than $500,000 in repairs and restoration due to damage caused by people living in the park.
Some of the neighborhood’s residents had also complained about the group’s trash and said they no longer felt safe visiting the park. In addition, city officials said multiple deaths and instances of sexual abuse had occurred in the encampment.
The removal effort on March 25, 2021 was met with large protests, in which hundreds of officers descended on Echo Park and arrested about 180 people, including journalists.
Protesters blasted the city for forcing the park’s residents out of an area that had grown into what they called a supportive community during the pandemic — including a vegetable garden, working showers and a shared kitchen.
In the statement Monday, O’Farrell said he directed the Department of Recreation and Parks to “spearhead an independent, community-driven process to shape the future of the Echo Park complex, including park amenities, security measures, programming and more.”