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Chaos erupts at Los Angeles City Council as lawmakers vote to ban homeless encampments near schools

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Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

Chaos erupted at a Los Angeles City Council meeting on Tuesday when protesters broke through a security barricade and accosted lawmakers, who voted to ban homeless encampments near schools.

Three police officers were injured and more than 100 people were ordered to disperse from the city council chambers during a skirmish between activists and police, the Los Angeles Police Department said. One person was arrested for taking a person from lawful custody of a police officer and resisting arrest.

Councilman Paul Krekorian described the protest as an "attack" that included verbal threats against lawmakers, Fox News reported.

"In yet another attack on constitutional democracy, for the second time in a week, a small mob of extremists today again shut down a public meeting of the City Council," Krekorian said. "In the process, they breached a security barrier, physically threatened the Council, and attacked police officers. One of them was arrested two feet from my desk."

The incident occurred when dozens of demonstrators showed up for public comments ahead of a city council vote to ban homeless encampments within 500 feet of school and day-care centers. Council members voted 11-3 to approve the ordinance, expanding a law that also prohibits homeless encampments near libraries, freeway overpasses, and other locations.

Supporters of the ordinance say it is necessary for the safety of children, especially those who walk to school and have to pass encampments where drug use, sexual activity, and mental illness are rampant.

"Our students are already traumatized with social-economic issues," Councilman Joe Buscaino said. "They should not be exposed to sex acts. They should not be exposed to open drug use. They should not be exposed to psychotic behavior."

Protesters and homelessness activists have decried the law as an attack on the "unhoused." They argue that nearly 20% of the city would be sectioned off by banning encampments near schools and that lawmakers should instead provide more permanent housing to decrease encampments, according to KCBS-TV.

Demonstrators had previously disrupted a city council meeting on Aug. 2 where lawmakers held an initial vote on the ordinance.

"Enforcement of anti-camping ordinances, then, only displaces people and makes it harder for trained outreach staff to establish trust again. Residents of cleared encampments, unless connected to stable permanent housing through a trauma-informed case management process, often return to unsheltered homelessness," the nonprofit group People Assisting the Homeless said in a statement.

The Los Angeles Times reports Tuesday's meeting was contentious from the start. Members of the public shouted expletives at council members as they entered the room. When council President Nury Martinez told the audience to "grow up," they jeered back at him. And people booed when Councilman Curren Price attempted to lead the Pledge of Allegiance.

Police were involved when an audience member, described as a black female, climbed over a bench and approached the city council dais, hurling expletives at lawmakers. The suspect "charged" toward Martinez and was detained by officers, police said.

While officers were attempting to detain the suspect, another individual from the crowd "intervened" to assist her. Several members of the audience then surrounded the police officers attempting to detain the first suspect, who managed to flee the location. The intervening audience member was identified as Ricci Sergienko and was arrested, police said.

Video shared by Spectrum News 1 reporter Kate Cagle shows protesters shouting "let her go" as officers detain the first suspect, who appeared to be resisting arrest. Someone repeatedly calls the officers "cockroaches."

A white woman wearing a face mask can be seen pulling the detained woman away from the police, causing a scuffle.

"Let her go you f***ing pig!" someone shouts at the officers. Others shout "shame on you" and other expletives.

An unlawful assembly was declared after the altercation, and the city council went into recess. LAPD officers wearing riot gear reportedly cleared the chamber.

Lawmakers returned once the chamber was cleared and passed the ordinance. The new restrictions will prevent people from sitting, sleeping, lying on, or storing property within 500 feet of every public and private school.

"There can never be any excuse or rationalization for this kind of anarchic lawlessness," Krekorian said. "The people of our nation cannot tolerate raging extremists entering public buildings and threatening public officials with the intent to shut down the government, no matter what their viewpoints may be."

"Every Angeleno should be outraged by what happened today in their City Hall. Anyone who seeks to be a leader in this city must actively denounce this kind of nonsense in clear and unambiguous terms," he added.

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