Shocking footage has emerged showing California Highway Patrol (CHP) officers forcibly removing families who were occupying vacant state-owned homes in LA. Crowds of activists showed up to defend the families on Thanksgiving eve.
The videos, reportedly captured Wednesday night in the El Sereno area, make for intense viewing; law enforcement agents are seen dragging people out of the homes, dressed in riot gear, armed with military-style guns and even using battering rams on doors.
“Be human again,” one protester calls to the officers, adding that they are acting like “domestic terrorists.” In one particularly disturbing video, a female who appears to be a teenager is carried out of a home by officers as activists scream at officers.
This is happening right now in my neighborhood of El Sereno. @LAPDHQ is dragging a family, guns drawn, out of the abandoned home they have been living in. This is cruel and inhuman. They rather they be in the street than in a boarded up home. Abandoned by CalTrans. pic.twitter.com/BjPJwluYMi
— Xolo Mariduena (@Xolo_Mariduena) November 26, 2020
The sheriffs just used a battering ram to break into a house in order to violently drag poor people out of their shelter. There is a child in the house pic.twitter.com/2f43aRpgO6
— People’s City Council – Los Angeles (@PplsCityCouncil) November 26, 2020
Other videos show crowds of protesters marching against the state evictors and arguing over the legality and morality of their actions.
Crime journalist for the LA Daily News, Josh Cain, called the situation “deeply nightmarish.”
NOW: In the East Los Angeles community of El Sereno, dozens of CHP officers, some in tactical gear, are evicting and arresting people who have opened up vacant homes owned by the state of CA (Caltrans). Currently a dispersal order is being given to a group of demonstors. pic.twitter.com/98GX8sXXg1
— Brian Feinzimer (@bfeinzimer) November 26, 2020
The activist group Reclaim and Rebuild Our Community announced on Wednesday that they had peacefully moved people into several long-empty houses, acquired by the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) when a now-defunct plan had been in place to expand the 710 Freeway.
The decades-old project failed to get off the ground and was officially nixed in 2018, leaving more than 160 houses along the now-cancelled freeway extension pass to stay vacant.
The Reclaim and Rebuild activists were also calling on state Governor Gavin Newsom to direct Caltrans “not to use violent evictions or arrests.”
In an impromptu press conference in the early hours of Thanksgiving morning, activists holding a baby and a young toddler told the media that they had not heard any response from local officials. “We feel that amidst the pandemic, it’s irresponsible and inhumane for the state to be hoarding 170 homes,” said Claudia Lara. The group has described themselves as “unhoused families that include children as young as 3 months old and seniors over 70 years old.”
Just minutes before CHP arrived at the homes, reclaimed Claudia Lara and Janie Hernandez appealed to Gov. Newsom directly, asking him to stop CHP from violently evicting the people in the homes: pic.twitter.com/OoqV3Kd3Lr
— Cerise Castle (@cerisecastle) November 26, 2020
It’s Thanksgiving morning and CHP is continuing to carry out evictions on previously unoccupied homes owned by CalTrans in El Sereno. Activists Claudia Lara & Janil Hernandez said earlier that they haven’t heard from any local officials, like new city council member @kdeleonpic.twitter.com/DFpwchtR4M
— Cerise Castle (@cerisecastle) November 26, 2020
Caltrans addressed the situation and defended its actions in a statement saying the vacant homes along the route “are unsafe and uninhabitable for occupants” and that it had asked the CHP to “remove trespassers so that the properties can be re-secured and boarded up.”
The department’s spokesperson added that Caltrans aims to sell the remaining vacant houses, ensuring “the properties are used for affordable housing.”
Notably, 42 of the Caltrans-owned houses went on sale back in 2016. However, come 2019, the department had only sold 10, Pasadena Star News reported at the time.
Despite many Californians marching in support of the housing activists, some locals did not share the sentiment. “I disagree with what these people are doing … If they want to live somewhere, tell them to apply just like everyone else did,” one El Sereno resident told NBCLA.
As the situation escalated, ‘Caltrans’ began trending on Twitter, with commenters outraged by officers and government officials who they said were “protecting property over people.”
Nobody’s profits are even being harmed by reclaiming the Caltrans houses. You can’t say “but what about the landlord” for a bunch of houses the state of California has done nothing with for decades. Cops protect property over people, end of story.
— Carter Moon (@CarterDMoon) November 26, 2020
LA County: we must figure out our growing homelessness issueEveryone: there are empty hotel rooms and caltrans houses just sitting there???LA County: oh no, not THOSE spaces, but surely someone will help💘
— it’s sparksmastime again, charlie brown🖤🥂⚾️🏀 (@kyliesparks) November 26, 2020
Houses standing empty for four years during a homelessness crisis? Seems to me that these houses should be used just like they were. The problem is that Caltrans did nothing to administer it. The state failed its obligation during a time of need.
— Mats Johansson (@KMatsJ) November 26, 2020
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