On March 24, 2021, the LAPD – acting on the orders of CD13 City Councilmember Mitch O’Farrell – orchestrated a mass eviction of the Echo Park Lake housing encampment. Public backlash to the sweep on Twitter was swift, with hashtags like #EchoParkRiseUp trending throughout the night and the following days. During this time, an audio clip was shared widely which included what was believed to be an exchange between two LAPD helicopter pilots discussing dumping fuel on protestors.
Knock LA has learned through a source – who had more complete access to the call logs – the audio was not actually LAPD. LAPD helicopters do not broadcast on an open band that can be picked up by privately owned scanners. What we were actually hearing was footage of local news station crews. These were likely private contractors hired out to capture footage of the protests.
Right now, we are unsure which channels the pilots in question worked for, but the footage contains language that many find disturbing and reveals animosity toward both the protestors and the now displaced residents of Echo Park Lake. We have discussed media bias in regards to Echo Park Lake coverage before and the potential harm it causes Los Angeles’s unhoused community. The open hostility of contractors tasked with capturing footage – ostensibly meant to capture footage objectively – is concerning.
We have included the clips below along with contextual information when necessary.
“If I had the Blackwater helicopter…”
Two pilots joke about wishing they were operating Blackwater helicopters, referring to the private military company with a history of human rights abuses.
“Oh you know, just watching a bunch of entitled little kids.”
A pilot refers to the protestors as “a bunch of entitled little kids.”
“They should get tased, that’s what.”
Two pilots express aggravation at the protestors and suggest it is “what happens when you don’t spank your children” before jokingly suggesting tasing as an alternative to a participation trophy.
“It’s probably a good thing they got you sitting left seat.”
A man says he is playing a TV cameraman with someone known as Harry. The men joke it’s probably a good thing the pilot is sitting in the left seat.
For context, in a military aircraft, the person sitting in the right seat would be in control of dropping missiles.
“Set for missiles and everyone would go home.”
In addition to joking about dropping missiles, the pilots make a joke about washing the underbellies of their helicopters in the lake.
A 500-foot hover over the lake would cause a massive amount of down draft, which would spray water all over nearby Echo Park Lake residents residing and their tents and belongings.
You can listen to more about this leaked helicopter audio on Knock LA’s Podcast (link below). More episodes available if you visit the Podcast tab on our home page.