LA residents face off against officers evicting homeless families from state-owned houses on Thanksgiving

This Screengrab from a November 26, 2020 Twitter video shows a member of a local housing activist group being forcibly carried out of a vacant state-owned house by law enforcement officers in El Sereno, Los Angeles, USA.
This Screengrab from a November 26, 2020 Twitter video shows a member of a local housing activist group being forcibly carried out of a vacant state-owned house by law enforcement officers in El Sereno, Los Angeles, USA. © Street Watch LA, Twitter

Residents and protesters in Los Angeles, California confronted law enforcement officers violently evicting homeless and housing-insecure families from state-owned houses at night on November 25 and 26. The families, members of a local housing activist group, argued that they were using the homes to “shelter in place” as Covid-19 cases surged in California.


On the night before Thanksgiving, officers of the California Highway Patrol (a state law enforcement agency) were filmed knocking down the door of a house with a battering ram in the city’s El Sereno neighbourhood.

A video in a November 26 Twitter thread posted by security CEO Chad Loder shows officers ramming the door of the house while indignant onlookers yell at them to stop, saying that “there’s a family in there”.

The vacant house, purchased by the California Department of Transportation for demolition for its defunct 710 freeway expansion project, was one of many occupied since Wednesday morning by 20 families in the “Reclaim and Rebuild Our Community” activist group. A November 25 YouTube video by the group stated that the families included “children as young as 3 months old and seniors over 70 years old […] that have been living in cars and in encampments”.

As the situation escalated, officers were filmed carrying out struggling members amid screams from onlookers.

The officers also entered other houses on the block occupied by “Remain” members, as this video shows. However, they were met with resistance from locals, who tried to prevent the officers from circulating on the block and berated them for their actions.

This November 26 Twitter video shows rattled officers yelling at locals to 'get back' as they peacefully stand in the officers’ way.

This November 26 Twitter video shows a man berating a line of silent officers. 'Are you guys proud of yourselves? Happy Thanksgiving,' he says. 'Your kids are going to be embarrassed to tell their friends what their parents do for a living.'

Local news channel ABC7 reported that around 100 officers were present in the neighbourhood that night. It wasn’t clear how many people were evicted.

On November 26, the night of Thanksgiving, officers returned to the same neighbourhood amid protests from a large crowd of local residents and demonstrators, who rallied following the diffusion of the previous night’s videos on social media. 

This November 27 Twitter video shows demonstrators facing off against a couple of dozen officers in front of another home in the El Sereno neighbourhood, chanting, 'Pigs go home!'

As the scene grew more chaotic, officers tied up and carried off people who appear to have been demonstrating in front of the homes, while the crowd screamed insults at them.

On November 27 at 7.30am PST, it is not known how many people were evicted. FRANCE 24 Observers has reached out to the California Highway Patrol, who has not responded to inquiries.

A movement to reclaim community homes months in the making

Members of the “Reclaim” activist group first occupied vacant state-owned homes in El Sereno in March, as California ordered residents to shelter in place due to the coronavirus pandemic. 

This eventually led to the creation of a transition housing programme by the state in late October, turning 23 of the vacant properties into temporary housing for people in need, including 13 families from the activist group. Members of the programme could be allowed to stay in the homes for up to two years.

Activists, however, want to see the homes become permanent housing by transferring them to the community’s land trust so that they would be owned communally. 

'It is unconscionable that anyone should be forced to spend Thanksgiving, or any other day of the year, on the street.'

Addressing the evictions in a November 26 Twitter post, Los Angeles City Councilman Kevin de León said that his office “worked to secure hotel vouchers and other rapid rehousing solutions for those in immediate need” and was working with state officials to expand permanent housing solutions for more families. He also criticised the “physical methods of enforcement” used by the officers, saying that images of the evictions were “heartbreaking” and “unacceptable”.

Although he mentioned that the city had begun to house people in some of the vacant homes, he did not specify whether the homes from which the families were evicted were a part of the transition housing programme.

In an email to local news channel CBSLA, a representative of the California Department of Transportation said that the homes in question were unsafe and uninhabitable for occupants, and that officers were ordered to remove trespassers so that the properties could be re-secured.