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Anti-Gentrification Group Lead Protest At New NELA Restaurant Park Doing ‘American Heritage Cookery’

1:02 PM PDT on July 1, 2022


With its residential foothills and warehouse-pocked industrial avenues, Glassell Park has yet to undergo the rampant development and ensuing gentrification that has rapidly changed the face of its Northeast L.A. neighbors.

But a handful of life-long locals sense the creeping suffocation to come, beginning with those first dreadful dominoes of high-priced menus, bars full of bogus bohemians, and art galleries that can swiftly lead to displacement and cultural white-washing.

A new battlefield has been established in the movement to "Defend L.A." from the redevelopment-wielding barbarians-at-the-gate. An eponymous new restaurant helmed by Southern-raised chef Brian Dunsmoor opened this week on Eagle Rock Boulevard amid a volley of local protest intent on stopping it in its tracks.

L.A. TACO first learned about the effort to shut the restaurant down this week when contacted with a press release pointing us to the DunsmoorIsDone Instagram account, where the lone post reads:

Come help us make Dunsmoor DONE like dinner tomorrow, Wednesday June 29th on their opening night! This restaurant group not only threatens to turn Glassell Park into Highland Park v.2.0 but has plans to spread to other areas of LA, and will bring gentrifiers chomping at the bit willing to pay $200 per dinner from all over the County to this neighborhood which has not yet fully gentrified - the players involved have already helped further gentrify other LA neighborhoods with their restaurants, including Culver City, Mar Vista, and Venice, and now they've set their speculative sights eastward and beyond.

This restaurant group WILL cause heightened displacement - and homelessness - unless they are stopped. Please come and help us send a clear message that these people not only chose the wrong neighborhood - but that gentrification pioneers can no longer count on feeling entitled to set up shop and cause displacement- and homelessness - wherever they see fit. Help us make it true, that Dunsmoor is DONE.

The organizers of the protest are concerned that the restaurant, an ode to the early cooking methods of the colonial and frontier U.S. that Dunsmoor has previously explored at restaurants like Hatchet Hall, The Hart & The Hunter, and the suddenly ironically-named pop-up Wolf in Sheep's Clothing, was going to lead to the displacement of people of color and lower-income residents, and spur potential homelessness, a reality made clear in the past when some longstanding, evicted Highland Park residents were found taking shelter in the L.A. River at the dawn of that neighborhood's gentrification.

However, a majority of comments on the post seemed to support the restaurant's right to be there or are hostile to the protest. Defenses include that the restaurant space was long-vacant and unused, that the movement is only spreading awareness of the opening, that the restaurant is bringing jobs to the area, and that at least one neighborhood transplant is really excited to try it.


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A post shared by DefendNELA (@defendnela)

According to a story in the L.A. Times, the next salvo came in the form of bold red graffiti sprayed across Dunsmoor's window on opening day reading, in both English and Spanish: "Gentrification is genocide." The graffiti was easily removed but brings to mind a similar effort in Boyle Heights against Weird Wave Coffee, which included months of protests and graffiti targeting the business' presence.

The article goes on to say that a 60-strong force of protestors showed up on the opening night, hoisting protest signs along Eagle Rock Boulevard and decrying the business. Some protestors reportedly showed up at a neighboring bar The Grant, where nearby, some sort of physical altercation occurred with a Dunsmoor diner. Meanwhile, a restaurant partner told the Times that Dunsmoor is not about to close anytime soon and saw over 100 covers on opening night.

Longtime and life-long locals have witnessed many changes in Los Angeles over the last few years, often confronting them with the prospect of a city they no longer feel they recognize. For families who have occupied and supported neighborhoods smacked by the sudden force of gentrification's spiraling damage, the consequences are cruel, with the potential to decimate their equity, stability, and standing in a society and system more generous to real-estate developers than working individuals and their dependents.

Whether or not the protests continue or the restaurant endures, questions will continue to swirl and linger for years to come as to who should be blamed for gentrification's ravages and what are reasonable lengths to take to stop them.

Should condemnation be saved for developers? Or be lobbed straight at businesses and entrepreneurs who take the bait and come to "up-and-coming" neighborhoods where their presence may not be wholly welcomed and lead to irreversible damage?

Is forcing a restaurant out of one's neighborhood or interfering with a job-providing enterprise just another form of fascism? Or is it a justified stand against the extremely real threat of displacement and ruin?

Or is it E) All of the above?

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