LOS ANGELES – A California highway patrol fought protesters on Thanksgiving night when officers forcibly removed people who had taken over empty state-owned homes in a Los Angeles neighborhood.
The Reclaim and Rebuild Our Community group said its members occupied El Sereno’s homes on Wednesday, and the so-called “reclaimers” had infant families who had previously lived in cars and camps.
About 100 CHP officers gathered nearby to remove residents were met by activists who lined up to try to prevent law enforcement officers from driving away with their members.
The California Department of Transportation, or Caltrans, has 163 vacant housing units in eastern Los Angeles County, writes the Southern California News Group. The properties mostly include detached houses and were acquired by the state decades ago to use the plan for widening the highway that has since been abandoned.
Matt Rocco, a spokesman for Caltrans, said the agency asked the CHP to “remove the offenders so that the properties could be reinsured and put on board” because they were “unsafe and uninhabitable for residents”.
Videos posted showed officers on social media using hitting rams to knock down the doors of houses and carrying people out into the yard where a person seemed to be tense. Activist social media posts said the relocation continued on Thursday afternoon.
“I’m confused, confused and shaken when I watched that video when a 17-year-old kid was tied up the night before Thanksgiving. tweeted Sasha Renée Pérez, elected mayor of a small town in the nearby Alhambra.
The CHP did not respond to requests for comments, but NBC in Los Angeles detained at least three people Wednesday night.
In a statement, Kevin de León, a Los Angeles city councilor representing El Sereno, criticized the use of “physical methods of execution” and called Wednesday’s removals “heartbreaking and unacceptable”.
Homelessness has increased in Los Angeles even before the coronavirus epidemic, due to rising rents and housing shortages. There are at least 66,433 homeless people in Los Angeles, according to a spring census.
Activists who occupy apartments owned by Caltrans said they wanted Governor Gavin Newsom to intervene and allow homeless families to stay in the house to follow state and city guidelines to stay home during the pandemic.
Newsom’s office did not respond to a request for comment on Thursday.
In January, a group of women in Oakland calling themselves Moms House 4 were fired from an empty house they occupied to draw attention to homelessness in the Bay Area. They were able to return after the property owners agreed to sell the house to the Oakland Community Land Trust, a nonprofit that buys and repairs property for affordable housing.
The recovery and reconstruction of our community wants to see a similar agreement in Los Angeles when Caltrans-owned housing units fall into the hands of the El Sereno Community Land Trust.