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A community garden, a jobs program, meal distribution, community clean-ups: These are the amenities and services that unhoused people and mutual aid organizations created in Los Angeles’ Echo Park after coming together in the park last fall. Alongside the lake, with its iconic swan boats, hundreds of unhoused people took shelter during the pandemic, setting up tents against the downtown skyline.

David Busch-Lilly, a local organizer for homeless rights who has himself been unhoused for the past 20 years, told Grist he had never seen anything like it. “The park had become such a peaceful oasis during lockdown,” he said, in large part because the COVID-19 shutdown put a temporary pause on the city’s policy of forcibly removing similar encampments to conduct sidewalk and street cleanings.

But on March 25, the community evaporated in the blink of an eye. Police choppers rumbled in the sky. The city put up chain-link fences to enclose the camp, turning the once-autonomous community into what protestors and residents of the park called an “open-air prison.” At least a dozen people were left trapped inside the park by the fencing.

Hundreds of Angelenos gat... Read more

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