Council member and activist fight while children watch

Council member and activist fight while children watch

  • US News
  • December 11, 2022
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  • 15

More than 100 children and their parents gathered in Lincoln Park on Friday night for a tree lighting celebration.

Parents took videos of their daughters performing in the auditorium in pink tutus. Outside, children were playing in a snow pit. The DJ played “Christmas Is Here” and other holiday songs.

On stage, Councilor Kevin de León, wearing a Santa hat, was handing out gifts to children when a handful of activists entered.

What happened next pulled everyone in the room into the maelstrom of late-2022 Los Angeles politics. Over the next 10 minutes, five activists chased De León around the auditorium, loudly calling him a racist and urging him to resign.

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

The evening ended with both De León and Reedy filing police reports claiming they had been beaten by the other – and children weeping at the violent altercation they witnessed.

It’s been another civic low in a string of them in the past two months since De León was caught on a leaked racist tape that sent the city into an uproar. De León – the only one of three councilors on the record who will still be in office this week – has faced immense pressure to step down, with frequent protests outside his home and at City Hall.

After Friday’s events, De León reiterated that he has no intention of resigning.

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

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

Police officers watch Jason Reedy during the city council hearing.

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

(Myung J. Chun / Los Angeles Times)

Reedy, a single father who carried his 5-month-old in a harness on his chest, was also there. The video shows Reedy calmly slipping headphones over the baby’s ears and then yelling, “Get him out! Get him out of the chambers at once!”

Other demonstrators also shouted. De León’s supporters sang. Police officers filled the room. Council President Paul Krekorian immediately called for a break.

Police drove Reedy and another man from the chambers, fearing they would get into a fight. When the council session resumed, De León did not return.

Reedy, an organizer for the People’s City Council, has been protesting De León for months, and confrontations between the two had previously turned physical. In March, Reedy verbally challenged De León during an outdoor event as a council member reached out to cover Reedy’s phone cameraHe hit him in the face, the activist said. At an event downtown, months later, Reedy recorded De Leon when the city council shoved an activist and grabbed another’s cell phone as he was walking on Olvera Street.

When asked about those incidents, De León said, “They provoke you, they try to get you to punch them, and then they video you.”

Tensions have escalated since October after The Times reported on leaked audio of a private conversation in 2021 between councilors De León, Gil Cedillo and Nury Martinez, and Los Angeles County Federation of Labor President 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 Council President at the time, said Bonin treated his son as if he were an “accessory” and described the child as “parece changuito” or “like a monkey”.

De León seemed to compare Bonin’s handling of his child to Martinez holding a Louis Vuitton handbag. He later said he was referring to Martinez’s ‘liking for luxurious accessories’.

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

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

He has apologized for his involvement in the talks but has vigorously refused to step down, saying he does not want to let his constituents down. Over the past month, De León once again began attending meal gifts and other community events.

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

Alan Ochoa, a DJ at the event, said hundreds of people turned out throughout the evening. There were gifts for the children and coffee and food for the parents.

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

Ochoa, who grew up in Lincoln Heights, said he doesn’t watch the news and was unaware of the controversy surrounding the leaked audio.

He said De León got off the stage and tried to walk away, but the group 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 in there and screw up an entire community event,” Ochoa said. “As it is, we live in a low-income community, and these guys who don’t even live there come in here and mess it up for our community.”

Sheryl Quock, a member of J-Town Action and Solidarity, said she, Reedy and three other activists decided to appear at the event because the normal channels of public comment and popular protest did not result in De León’s resignation.

“He clearly avoids hearing what people actually have to say about his holding this office, and he avoids taking responsibility for the harm he has done to our community,” Quock said. “Because he doesn’t listen to our voices, we have no choice but to bring our voices to him.”

Quock captured video of the incident on her phone, and it was her 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 was posted by on Twitter on Saturday RootsAction shows activists walking alongside De León within the event, urging him to resign while Reedy stands in front of the councilor and holds a phone in his face. As 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 councilman seems to push him back. Reedy holds his arms up and stands nose to nose with De León while others taunt the couple. There’s a brief fight, then De León grabs Reedy, shoves him into a table and tries to shove him out of the room.

In an interview on Saturday, De León said he tried to leave but the group continued to block the exits. Eventually, he ended up in a narrow hallway, where he was pinned against a wall, he said. At that point, he said, Reedy “poked his pelvis into me” and then “banged his head on my forehead.” He said he then 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 retribution told the Times he saw Reedy unsuccessfully attempt to headbutt De León.

The video does not capture the jab or the headbutt. Told by a reporter that the two appeared to butt heads, De León said, “We didn’t butt heads … he head butted me.” He also turned against those who referred to what passed off as a fight was playing, stating it was “an attack that was unprovoked”.

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

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

“Not only has Kevin de León lost all political legitimacy, his claims that he was the one who was attacked here simply underscores how he has lost touch with reality,” Rahman said, adding that De León was “a disgrace ” be.

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

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

The Los Angeles Police Department is investigating the incident after both 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 councillors.

Two described it as an “assault” on De León and his associates. Krekorian, the council leader, called what happened an “intolerable” crime against the council member. Monica Rodriguez, representing the Northeast Valley, said in a statement that the protesters’ behavior was “terrorism.”

“The physical assault on Councilor 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 arriving councilors Hugo Soto-Martínez and Euniss Hernandez said the video provided another reason for De León to resign immediately.

“As this video clearly shows, when Kevin De León had the opportunity to walk away, he chose to be defiant, as he has done on numerous occasions in council chambers,” said Soto-Martínez, who represents a district that has moved away from Hollywood extends to Glassell Park, tweeted Saturday. “This is another example of what disqualifies him for leadership. In order for our city to heal, he needs to do the right thing and resign.”

Times editors David Zahniser and Julia Wick contributed to this report.

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