Homeless Camped in Pedestrian Tunnel Are Arrested When They Refuse to Leave

Times Staff Writers

Seventeen homeless people and their supporters, including four college students, were arrested late Thursday night after they refused to vacate the pedestrian tunnel near the downtown Music Center where the transients had been living for the past two months.

Authorities said Friday that the arrests took place without incident, but about 50 supporters looked on and hooted their disapproval as 15 Los Angeles County security guards, backed up by 28 Los Angeles police officers, led the 17 away shortly before midnight.

Some of the protesters shouted, "Justice for the homeless!" as they were taken into custody.

Citing health and safety concerns, county security officials ordered that the tunnel camp be vacated by 11:30 p.m.

Heyward Allen, chief of operations for the county Facilities Management Department, said the order was issued after numerous complaints that some members of the encampment had been harassing and intimidating passers-by in a mall near the tunnel, between the Los Angeles County Hall of Administration and the County Courthouse on Hill Street.

Before the arrests, Allen told the homeless people that the county Department of Public Social Services would give them vouchers entitling them to stay in downtown hotels, but the offer was of little consequence to the transients.

Self-styled homeless leader Ted Hayes, one of the 17 arrested, said the vouchers were for hotels on Skid Row, "and we don't want to go back there."

The 17 were booked on misdemeanor charges of loitering, trespassing and refusing to disperse, authorities said. One person also was booked on a charge of felony possession of a weapon.

By Friday afternoon, nearly all of those arrested pleaded either guilty or no contest to the misdemeanor charges and were released.

Among those arrested were four college students from Claremont who said they were members of a campus group that supports the homeless.

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