During the "townhall" portion of a meeting of the Echo Park Improvement Association this evening, the feeling in the room was quite urgent that something be done about the informal/not legal every-Sunday flea market at Echo Park Lake. For about two years various neighborhood activists have been trying to get the city to shut down the open-air market, at which unlicensed vendors sell all kinds of unlicensed goods. Toys, clothes, batteries. Stuff. A majority (though certainly not huge) of the activists are white and middle class, and most of the vendors are Latino and probably poor. It's a zig-zag border between the two groups. Like so many land-use disputes, what looks on the surface like a racial divide turns out to be a class issue. It's one of those things where you choose sides no matter what you do, no matter what happens.
Last night, lots of strategies were discussed, including filing claims against the city due to blocked access to parkland. Senior Lead Officer Bobby Hill of the Northeast Division volunteered to increase police presence at the park, "because it's Echo Park," he said, even though the lake is technically Rampart Division's responsibility. The rep for Rampart was more subdued. Alejandra Marroquin, deputy for Eric Garcetti, at one point told the room she would not discuss specifics because there appeared to be journalists present (spies!).
At last night's meeting, at Barlow Hospital, a couple of residents brought pictures that they said showed a man with a machete, taken Saturday night in the park. (They gave the pics to the neighborhood attorney, Andre Quintero.) They said machete-man was extorting money to reserve park spaces. Ropes and string were being used as demarcation.
Someone pointed out that the park is closed after 10 p.m. Which makes machete-man's late-night presence in the park an enforceable code violation!
I also heard tell of hipsters who had started joining the paisanos, selling their hipster wares alongside the tube socks. Maybe they had black socks and bootleg Afghan Whigs cassettes.
The police officer from Rampart Division told the crowd that they should call 311 to report code violations in the park. But, he added, if you see a guy with a machete, call 911.
(Postcard image via the Echo Park Historical Society.)