Garcetti Gets A House Call From Protesters Demanding Protection For Renters

This sign was taped to the gate of Mayor Eric Garcetti's residence on Saturday, Aug. 1. (Josie Huang/KPCC)

Hundreds of protesters gathered outside Mayor Garcetti's mansion Saturday afternoon to call for the cancellation of rent during the pandemic.

The timing of the event — the first of August — was intentional, with some protesters pointing out it was the fifth "rent day" since stay-at-home orders put many people out of jobs and behind on the rent.

The protest planned by the People's City Council, was without major incident until the event ended nearly three hours later, when dozens of police started to clear out the street outside the Getty House.

After LAPD grabbed a teenager to be cited for being a pedestrian in a roadway, tensions escalated quickly, as protesters promised to help the teen get out of police custody.

LAPD said officers arrested three people on suspicion of battery on a police officer; on suspicion of resisting arrest; and suspicion of trying to free an arrestee.

The day had started playfully with a mariachi band blaring out bouncy tunes, even as protesters spoke urgently about the need to cancel rent.

A faux eviction notice was taped to the front gate of Getty House, telling the mayor that "you are hereby notified that you will be evicted from your mansion if you do not cancel rent within 3 days of receipt of this notice." (Getty House is the city-owned official residence for the mayor.)

During lulls in the music, people would take turns speaking, with some such as protester R.J. Dawson predicting a swell of evictions once the city's temporary moratorium lifts.

"Then we're going to be asking for them to house us because now we're part of the unhoused population," Dawson said.

Landlord groups have sounded the alarm that cancelling rent would bankrupt apartment owners.

But Nicole Donanian-Blandón with the People's City Council and the L.A. Tenants Union said renters need to be protected from landlords pressuring them into predatory agreements that force them "to hand over their stimulus checks (and) set up these really impossible rent payback programs, which is all illegal."

Donanian-Blandón and other protesters also called on Garcetti and other officials to create more homeless housing in vacant hotel rooms. As of mid-July, L.A. County had housed fewer than 4,000 homeless people in hotels, short of its 15,000 person goal.

"We know that the only cure for this right now is to be able to shelter in place and be able to have a home,"Donanian-Blandón said. "And they can't do that if they're on the street and then also being swept up by the city."

Protesters moved from the mayor's office to the intersection of Wilshire Boulevard and Crenshaw Boulevard for about a half hour, as police watched from street corners.

A cluster of protesters jeered at some of the officers. On a street corner, a Black LAPD commander verbally sparred with protesters.

But the situation stayed calm until the protest began to break up around 4:40 p.m.

The Mayor's residence received another visit early Sunday morning. This time it was Black Lives Matter-LA protesters speaking out on LAPD reforms and defunding the police.