Child Dragged From House As California Highway Patrol Evicts Families From Vacant Homes

California Highway Patrol officers have forcefully removed people who had occupied vacant state-owned homes in Los Angeles, according to videos posted on social media.

One video, posted by the Street Watch LA account, shows two officers dragging a child out of a home in the El Sereno neighborhood on the eve of the Thanksgiving holiday as people scream in protest. "Have a f****** heart!" one person is heard yelling.

"Tonight in El Sereno, CHP evicted a mom and child reclaiming rightful public land. They dragged a child from her home, pinned and arrested her," the tweet read.

Other clips showed officers in riot gear apparently using battering rams to gain entry into some houses. Television stations reported that some of the people evicted were hog-tied.

Another person at the scene wrote on Twitter that highway patrol officers had fired tear gas at people who had gathered to protest the evictions.

ABC7 reported that about 100 officers were in El Sereno, but it wasn't immediately clear how many people had been arrested.

A California Highway Patrol spokesperson told Newsweek: "At the request of the California Department of Transportation, the CHP has removed trespassers on state property." The spokesperson did not elaborate on how many were arrested.

The move came after a group of houseless activists and families, seeking a safe place to shelter in the coronavirus pandemic, occupied several homes that had been purchased by the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) to demolish for the now-defunct expansion of 710 freeway.

On a GoFundMe page, the Reclaim and Rebuild Our Community group said it consisted of families, ranging in age from 3 months to more than 70 years, who had been living in cars or homeless encampments.

They said they had "peacefully" moved into several of the empty houses this week and urged Governor Gavin Newsom to ensure Caltrans and the California Highway Patrol did not arrest or evict them.

They also called for Newsom to direct Caltrans to free up the 170 empty homes for those who need shelter during the pandemic.

"We, people of color are certainly facing "The Darkest Winter" not only because COVID is again spiking, but because for us, the economic crisis has worsened and the tsunami of evictions is dwarfing the already minuscule number of available affordable housing statewide," a post on the page said.

"As you said, we are safer if we have the ability to self-quarantine and safely isolate in a home. We therefore, ask that you, as governor, direct Caltrans to allow the new families to immediately turn on all their utilities: heating and running water and electricity are essential to shelter safely in place."

In a statement, the group added that the move was "a last resort because the system has failed all of us—especially communities of color—by creating this housing crisis which has worsened with COVID and the economic crisis."

Citing the governor's stay-at-home order, they asked Newsom "for his immediate support because we believe that sheltering in place is the right thing to do."

In a statement to NBC Los Angeles, a Caltrans spokesperson said the homes were "unsafe and uninhabitable."

The spokesperson added: "As such, Caltrans requested the California Highway Patrol remove trespassers so that the properties can be re-secured and boarded up."

Newsom's office and Caltrans have been contacted for additional comment.

This article has been updated with a comment from a California Highway Patrol spokesperson.

Homeless tents
The tents of homeless people line a freeway overpass on November 6 in Los Angeles. California Highway Patrol officers have evicted people who had occupied vacant homes in El Sereno. Robyn Beck/AFP via Getty Images