“You took away a haven, and we’re gonna fight for it," said Jessica Mendez, who led a candelit vigil and procession for the displaced community of Echo Park Lake.
“It was a hub,” explained Ayman Ahmed, Echo Park Lake resident and organizer the Tuesday following a brutal, cop-led mass eviction and enclosure of the encampment. “Every homeless person within a 3-5 mile radius knew to come to Echo Park for food. They knew to charge their phone. They knew to come get some clothing. Then Mitch [O’Farrell] came with his army and destroyed that hub.”
Despite the hostility of city politicians and the destruction of their homes, the community of Echo Park Lake aren’t ready to give up on this fight. On Monday night, they organized a sorrowful — but defiantly hopeful — vigil in remembrance of the lake as a public space, a home, and a beacon of safety.
A somber procession of community members and Echo Park Lake residents marched around the fence that now surrounds the park, carrying lit candles. Organizers of the vigil implored the attendees to remain quiet and observant, and to disperse once they reached CD 13 Councilmember Mitch O’Farrell’s office on Sunset Boulevard. “In honor of the heart and soul of this community, people are just shining their lights,” said David Busch-Lilly, another Echo Park Lake resident and organizer.
Jessica Mendez — also known as The Queen of Echo Park — led the vigil.
“People were left with no way of income,” Mendez said. “The police did it in such a way that was shady. It was wrong. The people in the park were lied to. The government, and Mitch O’Farrell’s office, has constantly lied to us.”
Scott Taylor, another community activist, echoed this assessment: “[The city] employed tactics that were excessive at best, and completely criminal and against the constitution at worst. And then they use this lie. They try to whitewash what they did the other night. Like it was justifiable to treat peaceful protesters like that. It was a peaceful protest.”
Mendez, however, also expressed hope for the community’s future.
“You took away a haven, and we’re gonna fight for it,” she said. “We’re learning to speak for ourselves. We’re learning to stand up for ourselves. We’re learning to ask questions. We’re learning to not only be human, but to be treated like human beings. To be acknowledged and to have our rights be recognized. So I hope to accomplish that Echo Park gets put back on the map and not as a gang-related place, not as a place of poverty, not as a hipster place, and with no gentrification and [displacement].”
While the mourners gathered outside O’Farrell’s office, leaving messages and candles on the sidewalk, a police helicopter circled above, buzzing low at just 900 feet above ground, its floodlight trained down on candles, signs, and remaining mourners. A CARE+ sweep was scheduled for the area behind the Councilmember’s office the following morning.