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Council member and activist fight as children watch

On Friday evening, more than 100 children and their parents gathered in Lincoln Park for a tree lighting celebration.

The parents took videos of their daughters performing in pink tutus inside the auditorium. The children played in a snow pit outside. The DJ played “Christmas Is Here” and other holiday songs.

On stage, Council member Kevin de León, who was wearing a Santa hat, was handing out presents to children when a handful of activists entered.

What happened next dragged everyone in the room into the maelstrom that is LA politics at the end of 2022. Over the next 10 minutes, five activists chased De León around the auditorium, loudly calling him a racist and telling him to quit.

Cornered in a back room, De León shoved one of the activists, Jason Reedy, onto a table and pushed him down a hallway, losing his Santa hat in the process. Reedy responded by punching De León at least once.

The evening ended with De León and Reedy filing police reports alleging they were beaten by each other – and children in tears at the violent altercation they witnessed.

It was another civic low in what has been a string of them over the past two months, since De León was caught on a leaked racist audio tape that rocked the city. De León – the only one of the three registration council members who will still be in office this week – has faced immense pressure to resign, with frequent protests outside his home and at city hall.

Following Friday’s events, De León reiterated that he has no plans to resign.

“My commitment is strong to my community, to my constituents,” he said. “I will not allow a group of extremely hostile individuals from outside the district to intimidate me or my staff or my constituents.”

The drama began earlier in the day when, after an absence of nearly two months, De León showed up for an LA City Council meeting, with dozens of his supporters in the audience.

Police officers stand between Jason Reedy and members of the city council during Friday’s meeting. Reedy was involved in an altercation with De León at a holiday event that night.

(Myung J. Chun/Los Angeles Times)

Reedy, a single dad carrying his 5-month-old baby in a harness across his chest, was there too. The video shows Reedy calmly putting headphones on the baby’s ears, then shouting, “Get him out!” Get him out of the bedrooms right away!

Other protesters also shouted. De León supporters chanted. The police filled the room. Council President Paul Krekorian immediately called for a break.

Police kicked Reedy and another man out of the rooms, fearing they were fighting. When the council meeting resumed, De León did not return.

Reedy, a popular city council organizer, has been protesting De León for months, and the clashes between the two had turned physical before. In March, Reedy was verbally challenging De León at an outdoor event when the councilman reached to cover Reedy’s cellphone camera with his hand, punching him in the face in the process, the activist said. At a downtown event a few months later, Reedy was recording De Leon when the councilman pushed one activist and grabbed another’s mobile phone as he walked down Olvera Street.

Asked about these incidents, De León said: “They provoke you, they try to get you to hit them and then film you.”

Tensions have escalated since October, after The Times reported the audio leak of a private conversation from 2021 between council members De León, Gil Cedillo and Nury Martinez, as well as the president of the County Federation of Labor. Los Angeles, Ron Herrera.

Some of the racist comments on the leaked tape were about council member Mike Bonin’s son, who is black. Martinez, who was then chairman of the board, said Bonin treated his son as if he were a “prop” and described the child as “Parece changuitoor “like a monkey”.

De León appeared to compare Bonin’s handling of her child to Martinez holding a Louis Vuitton handbag. He later said he was referring to Martinez’s “penchant for luxury accessories”.

The resulting uproar led to widespread condemnation and calls for the resignation of everyone involved, including President Biden. Martinez and Herrera resigned. Cedillo, who had already lost his re-election bid when the tape came out, has since disappeared from public view and officially ends his term on Sunday.

Only De León – whose term runs until 2024 – remains.

He apologized for his involvement in the conversation but forcefully rejected his resignation, saying he did not want to abandon his constituents. Over the past month, De León has again started attending food giveaways and other community events.

De León arrived at Friday’s event – the tree lighting and toy giveaway – in Lincoln Park around 4:45 p.m.

Alan Ochoa, a DJ at the event, said hundreds of people showed up throughout the evening. There were presents for the children and coffee and food for the parents.

Ochoa said he was DJing when a group of about five people walked in and started shouting “You’re racist” at De León.

Ochoa, who grew up in Lincoln Heights, said he didn’t watch the news and was unaware of the controversy with the audio leak.

He said De León came down from the stage and tried to walk away, but the band started “getting in his face”. Soon after, he said, the children started crying and running.

“If you want to prove your point, do it outside. Don’t go and ruin a whole community event,” Ochoa said. “As it is, we live in a low-income community, and these guys who don’t even live there come here, ruining our community.

Sheryl Quock, a member of J-Town Action and Solidarity, said she, Reedy and three other activists decided to show up at the event because the normal channels of public comment and protest from large segments of the population n had not led to the resignation of De León. .

“He clearly avoids hearing what people have to say about him holding this position, and he avoids taking responsibility for the harm he has inflicted on our community,” Quock said. “Because he won’t listen to our voices, we have no choice but to let him hear our voices.”

Quock took video of the incident on his phone, and it was his portrayal of De León throwing Reedy that was first posted online, in slow motion, on Friday night.

A 36-second version of Quock’s video posted to Twitter on Saturday by RootsAction shows activists marching alongside De León inside the event, calling on him to step down, while Reedy stands in front of the council member, holding a phone in front of his face. When De León reaches a door, someone pushes Reedy out of the way.

The video shows De León walking through a back room door and trying to close it. But Reedy follows him and the advisor seems to push him away. Reedy, raising his arms, stands nose to nose with De León as others assault the pair. There is a brief struggle, and then De León grabs Reedy, pushes him onto a table, and attempts to push him out of the room.

In an interview on Saturday, De León said he tried to leave, but the group continued to block exits. Eventually he found himself in a narrow hallway, where he was leaned against a wall, he said. At that point, he said, Reedy “shoved his pelvis into me” and then “headbutted me in the forehead.” He said that’s when he grabbed Reedy and put him on the table.

A social worker who was present at the event and identified himself only as Giovanni for fear of reprisal told The Times that he saw Reedy unsuccessfully trying to headbutt De León.

The video does not capture the push or headbutt. Told by a reporter that the two appeared to be butting heads, De León said: “We didn’t butt heads…he headbutted me.” He also took issue with those who referred to what unfolded as a fight, saying it was “unprovoked aggression”.

“I had to defend myself,” De León said. “There comes a time when you have to defend yourself. We are not the aggressor. They came to the event to disrupt and agitate.

Reedy’s attorney, Shakeer Rahman, said the video clearly shows De León was the attacker, despite the board member’s claims to the contrary.

“Not only has Kevin de León lost all political legitimacy, but his claims that he was the one who was attacked here just underscores how out of touch he has been with reality,” Rahman said, adding that De León was “a shame”.

De León says that after pushing Reedy down the hall, Reedy punched him in the face. Another video of the incident reviewed by The Times shows the punch. Rahman said Reedy stood still “until he had no choice but to defend himself.”

Jennifer Barraza, De León’s chief of staff, said that in the middle of the scrum, Reedy hit her on the chin with his elbow. Reedy’s attorney denied this.

The Los Angeles Police Department is investigating the incident after De León and Reedy filed police reports. De León added that he was considering seeking a restraining order against Reedy.

Friday’s incident only further divided De León’s other board members.

Two called it an “aggression” against De León and his team. Krekorian, the council chairman, called what happened an “intolerable” crime against the council member. Monica Rodriguez, who represents the Northeast Valley, said in a statement that the protesters’ behavior amounted to “terrorism”.

“The physical assault of Council member De León and his staff at a holiday event is not protected justice, and those who rationalize these acts are complicit in the assault,” she said. .

Meanwhile, new Council members Hugo Soto-Martínez and Eunisse Hernández said the video provided another reason for De León to resign immediately.

“As this video clearly shows, having had the opportunity to walk away, Kevin De León chose to be defiant, just as he has done on many occasions in council chambers,” Soto-Martínez said. , which represents a neighborhood stretching from Hollywood to Glassell Park. tweeted on Saturday. “This is yet another example of what disqualifies him to lead. For our city to heal, he needs to do the right thing and step down.

Times staff writers David Zahniser and Julia Wick contributed to this report.

California Daily Newspapers

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