Situated at a central point of Los Angeles, MacArthur park is a mostly neglected landscape that many people in the city nevertheless rely on. To my knowledge, since as far back as the 1980s, its lengthy green pastures and the enclosed concrete within have set the stage for generations of Centro-Americanos to hang out and assess life in L.A.
Over ten years ago, it was also a major site for L.A.’s biggest mass mobilization ever, when the 2006 Marches in support of undocumented immigrants made their way through its green space. I took part in those demonstrations, and in doing so, discovered a piece of myself within el pueblo that I carry with me to this day.
Only the next year after L.A.’s largest mass demonstration for immigrants ever, in a subsequent march known as the 2007 May Day March, which stood for the same protections as the previous demonstrations, the park would be the epicenter of a brutal crackdown on protesters and activists at the hands of then police chief William Bratton’s LAPD. Police officers fired over 100 rounds of projectiles directly into the peaceful crowd, descended on journalists with their batons, and kicked mothers and children who didn’t scurry quickly enough at their call. Although the department eventually admitted its breakdown in the face of peaceful demonstration, no subsequent reports of chiefs at fault being disciplined or a policy overhaul were ever made known.
Today the park is home to many of L.A.’s ‘homeless’ population, whose encampments are situated in and across 35 acres of greenscape; while the greenery still glistens with life, the park’s restrooms–like much of the ground surrounding them–are in need of deep washing; and apart from sanitation, the park also needs more spaces devoted to the surrounding neighborhood such as recreation centers, spaces for the elderly, and playgrounds for youth.
Walking through MacArthur’s vast and fragmented terrains, one might almost forget that it’s smack-dab in the middle of a city yearning to be known for its innovation. It’s then that one realizes that it’s actually past time to apply some innovative solutions to rein in the park’s neglect. But make no mistake about it: the descendants of those Centro-Americano workers–including those activists and protesters from 2006–still have the park in sight and are not short on ideas about its future. Stay tuned.