LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) – California Highway Patrol officers were confronted by dozens of protesters Wednesday night as they evicted squatters from vacant homes in the East Los Angeles neighborhood of El Sereno.
The CHP officers were evicting squatters from vacant homes owned by Caltrans in the area of Sheffield Avenue and Poplar Boulevard when they were confronted by the activists.
Caltrans had purchased the homes in order to demolish them and expand the 710 Freeway. However, the project fell through in 2018, and the homes still sit empty.
At one point, activists from the group “Reclaiming Our Homes” blocked the streets in an apparent effort to keep the officers from driving away. An unlawful assembly was declared by CHP at around 8:45 p.m.
“Vacant homes along the State Route 710 that were broken into are unsafe and uninhabitable for occupants,” Caltrans spokesperson Matt Rocco told CBSLA in an email. “As such, Caltrans requested the CHP remove trespassers so that the properties can be re-secured and boarded up.”
Neighbors told CBSLA that most of the people moved into the homes at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic and have riddled the neighborhood with crime.
The so-called reclaimers told CBSLA they are ready to defend what belongs to them.
“There has been a homeless encampment that has increased during the seven months of the pandemic, we’re seeing that more and more, it’s become so frequent, and it’s not right to allow people, families and children, to be homeless right now,” activist Angela Flores said.
Caltrans said it has been working to lease several of the properties for use as homeless shelters. The agency said it recently signed a lease with the L.A. Housing Authority to use 22 of the vacant properties for emergency shelters.
Rocco added the agency is working to sell some of the homes.
“As Caltrans continues to sell the remaining homes on the corridor, it is committed to working with local entities and other stakeholders to ensure the properties are used for affordable housing,” Matt Rocco said.