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Associated Press

Demonstrators gathered Wednesday to protest the planned temporary closure of a Los Angeles park that would displace a large homeless encampment that has grown throughout the coronavirus pandemic.

About 200 protesters gathered at Echo Park Lake just after sunrise, carrying signs that said “dignity not displacement” and “we need long term solutions.” They argued that the encampment with dozens of tents provides a makeshift community for people with nowhere else to go.

Part of the crowd marched to peacefully rally outside the nearby offices of City Councilmember Mitch O’Farrell, whose district includes the neighborhood just north of downtown.

O’Farrell’s office said in a statement that more than 120 homeless residents have been moved from encampments into transitional housing to prepare for closing the popular park with a large lake as its centerpiece. The Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority said at least 44 people were moved into shelters this week alone.

No timeline was provided for the closure, which O’Farrell’s statement said was necessary to make “extensive repairs” to lighting and plumbing and for general “public safety improvements.”

Homeless residents have slept in the park near downtown for years, but tents have proliferated in recent months. The group Echo Park Tent Community said in a statement that the growing encampment has provided a secure place for homeless people during the public health crisis.

“The biggest pandemic in years actually turned out to be a blessing for us,” the statement said. “Without the constant LAPD and city harassment uprooting our lives we’ve been able to grow… to come together as a community, not just unhoused but housed as well and work together for the mutual aid and benefit of each other.”

Official park closure notices would be posted soon, O’Farrell’s office said.