The Oscars may be all glitz on the night – but such a look is hardly achieved without considerable effort.
This year, as the awards ceremony was held for the first time at Union Station in Downtown Los Angeles, it seems the city’s less glamorous residents had to play their own part in putting on a dazzling show.
City authorities are accused of booting homeless people out of an encampment next to the venue to ensure their presence wouldn’t detract from the spectacle, Fox 11 Los Angeles reported.
Scores of rough sleepers – many living in tents near the city’s main railway station – were allegedly threatened and ordered to leave in the run-up to the most prestigious event in the entertainment industry’s calendar.
“They came to us about a week ago saying that we had to move by Friday 6 p.m. because they were trying to clean up for the Oscars,” a homeless man known as DJ told the channel.
“They told us if we didn’t move, they were gonna just demolish our stuff and [that] if you have warrants we’re gonna take you to jail.”
According to DJ, some of the destitute were relocated to a nearby hotel as cosmetic preparation for the influx of A-listers to the 93rd Annual Academy Awards.
“They were coming and harassing us three or four times a day … They forced us to go to the Grand Hotel on 3rd and Figueroa and they kicked everybody out of Union Station so it looks better for the image,” he said.
DJ told the channel that he had been living on a 101 freeway overpass, one block away from Union Station — an area that has become a hotspot for homelessness in recent months.
However, L.A. City Council member Kevin De Leon pushed back on claims that any homeless people were “forced” out.
“While the 93rd Academy Awards are being held at Union Station this year, and despite irresponsible rumors, NO unhoused residents are being forced to relocate,” he told Fox 11 in a statement.
Campaigners for homeless rights said the city has a history of sweeping the issue under the rug whenever a big national event swings around – and this time that rug was a big red carpet.
“I was taken aback by the [report] but we have a history in Los Angeles … That’s what’s led to a place called Skid Row,” Andy Bales, of the homeless advocacy group Union Rescue Mission, said of the notorious area of L.A. where crowded tents and makeshift shelters line entire blocks.
Bales said the city had been trying to conceal its uglier side for decades when under the spotlight, including during Pope John Paul II’s visit in 1987.