A Los Angeles official said that efforts to clear out a city park of homeless camps are being complicated by the MS-13 gang, which considers the park their territory.
Officials are closing MacArthur Park in hopes of driving out the homeless and renovating the 35-acre recreation area, but the vicious criminal gang is getting in the way of their outreach to homeless people, according to a report by the Los Angeles Times.
The gang regularly terrorizes residents near the park and has targeted transgender people and other LGBTQ members for threats and intimidation.
In March, a 19-year-old MS-13 gang member was charged with violently assaulting a transgender person while yelling derogatory insults. In 2019, another MS-13 gang member was charged with three counts of attempted murder over attacks on transgender people.
Officials plan to close the park on Oct. 15 and reopen it in January.
The park falls within the district of City Council member Gil Cedillo, who is overseeing the effort but has promised to avoid the missteps of other park closures in Los Angeles.
“We have tried to learn from the experiences of our colleagues in Echo Park and Venice — and from the city collectively as we figure out how to go forward,” Cedillo said.
Cedillo’s deputy district director Jose Rodriquez told the Times that the presence of the MS-13 gang was interfering with outreach efforts to place homeless people into temporary housing while the renovation is implemented.
Rodriguez said the homeless people would be housed in hotels and motels in the mid-downtown area. About 160 people have already been relocated from the park.
The project is expected to cost $1.5 million.
The park was established in 1886 as Westlake Park and was later renamed to honor World War II hero Gen. Douglas MacArthur in 1942.
Here’s more about cleanup efforts in Los Angeles:
Crews Cleaning Up Homeless Encampments in North Hollywood | NBCLA