Tensions rise over Echo Park homeless encampment following altercation with park rangers

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Community members gathered at an Echo Park town hall meeting Thursday after a homeless man was arrested Wednesday following a tense encounter with park rangers.

Video captured Wednesday shows park rangers pinning a homeless man to the ground at an Echo Park Lake homeless encampment, during a park cleanup by park rangers and the Los Angeles Police Department, The Eastsider reported.

The homeless man, identified as Davon Brown, was arrested on a misdemeanor charge of battery of a police officer Wednesday but was released Thursday, county booking records show.

"They say call it a cleanup. But it was homeless evictions," Brown said following his release. "They say they want to help us, but they actually want to kick us out."

Brown said he did nothing to warrant the treatment he received.

"My face was in the mud, hand on top of my head, knee in my back, bending my fingers to weaken me," he said.

The altercation took place ahead of Thursday's at-capacity Echo Park Neighborhood Council forum at nearby St. Athanasius at the Cathedral Center of St. Paul. The forum was held to address the homelessness issue in the neighborhood, with speakers including activists, residents and clergy.

In a state plagued with a homelessness crisis, the lake has become a sight of protests in recent weeks. Protestors blocked sanitation workers and park rangers from disposing of their property in late January.

Since late last month, a group of homeless people has been asking Councilman Mitch O'Farrell to find a way to allow them to stay at the Echo Park Lake overnight, as long as they keep the area clean and do not bother park-goers, The Eastsider reported.

Although the councilman has not agreed to let them stay at the park permanently, he introduced a motion on Feb. 14 to provide emergency shelter to homeless people in the park. The motion calls for a report on "potential capacity, security needs, and hours of operation, types of services, and cost."

A pilot Mobile Pit Stop Program exists in the neighborhood to offer safe parking for people to sleep in their vehicles at Edendale Branch Library, a few blocks from the park, and to provide restroom facilities to the homeless.

Brown is scheduled to appear in court on March 19, county booking records show.

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