Over 100 children and their parents gathered in Lincoln Park on Friday night for the tree lighting ceremony.
Parents took videos of their daughters performing in pink tutus inside the auditorium. Children were playing in the snow pit outside. The DJ played “Christmas Is Here” and other holiday his songs.
Alderman Kevin De Leon, wearing a Santa hat, was on stage handing out gifts to children when several activists entered.
What happened next swept everyone in the room into the havoc that is politics in Los Angeles in late 2022. Over the next ten minutes, five activists chased Deleon around the auditorium, loudly calling him racist and telling him to step down.
Trapped in a back room, De Leon pushes one of the activists, Jason Reedy, onto a table and into a hallway, losing his Santa hat in the process. Reedy responded by punching De Leon at least once.
The night ended with both De Leon and Reedy filing police reports claiming they were beaten by the other. Children burst into tears at the violent altercations they witnessed.
It’s been a series of civic downfalls over the past two months, since De Leon rocked the streets with a leaked racist recording tape. De Leon — the only one of his three city councilors on the recording who are still in office this week — faces tremendous pressure to resign, and has frequently protested outside his home and at city hall. is taking place.
After Friday’s events, De Leon reiterated that he has no plans to resign.
“My commitment is solid to my community, to my voters,” he said. “I have no intention of letting a very hostile group outside the district bully me, my staff, or voters.”
The drama started earlier in the day. After an absence of about two months, Deleon said he was at an LA City Council meeting with dozens of his supporters in the audience.
Also there was Reedy, a single father with his five-month-old son in a harness around his chest. The video shows Reedy quietly putting headphones to the baby’s ear and shouting, “Let him out! Get him out of the room now!”
Other protesters also cried. De Leon supporters chant. Police officers filled the room. Council President Paul Krekorian immediately called for an adjournment.
Police threw Reedy and another man out of the room, fearing a fight. When the Council meetings resumed, De Leon did not return.
Reedy, an organizer of the People’s City Council, has been protesting De Leon for months, and the confrontation between the two had previously turned physical. was chanting Reaching out to cover the camera on Reedy’s phone, punched him in the face in the process, the activist said. At a downtown event a few months later, Reedy was recording De Leon When an alderman pushed one activist and grabbed another activist’s mobile phone as they walked down Olvera Street.
When asked about these incidents, De Leon said, “They taunt you, they try to make you swing, they try to videotape you.
In October 2021, after The Times reported leaked audio of a private conversation between city councilors De Leon, Gil Sedillo, Nullie Martinez and Los Angeles County Labor Union president Ron Herrera. Since then, tensions have risen.
Some of the racist comments on the leaked tapes were about Alderman Mike Bonin’s son, who is black. treat the child as ifPalace Changeetor “like a monkey”.
De Leon appeared to compare Bonin’s treatment of children to Martinez’s carrying a Louis Vuitton handbag. He said that
The resulting uproar led to widespread condemnation and calls for everyone involved, including President Biden, to resign. Martinez and Herrera resigned. Cedillo, who had already lost his bid for re-election when the tape appeared, has since disappeared from public view, officially ending his term on Sunday.
Only De Leon, whose term runs until 2024, remains.
He apologized for his involvement in the conversation, but strongly opposed his resignation, saying he did not want to abandon his voters. started.
De Leon arrived for Friday’s event (tree lighting and toy giveaways) in Lincoln Park around 4:45pm.
Alan Ochoa, the event’s DJ, said hundreds of people gathered during the night.
Ochoa said he was DJing when a group of about five people walked in and started yelling “You’re racist” at De Leon.
Growing up in Lincoln Heights, Ochoa didn’t watch the news and was unaware of the controversy over the leaked audio.
He said De Leon got off the stage and tried to walk away, but the group “started hitting him in the face.” Soon after, the children started crying and running, he said.
“If you’re going to prove your point, do it outside. Don’t go out there and ruin the whole community event,” said Ochoa. But people who don’t live there come here and ruin our community.”
J-Town Action and Solidarity member Sheryl Quock said she, Reedy, and three other activists decided to attend the event because of public comments and protests by broad segments of the population. ‘s normal channels did not lead to De Leon’s resignation, he said. .
“He’s clearly avoided hearing what people really have to say about him being in this position and not being held accountable for the damage he’s done to our community. “He doesn’t hear us, so we have no choice but to reach out to him.”
Kwok took a video of the incident on her cell phone, and the first to be posted online in slow motion on Friday night was a portrayal of her de Leon throwing Reedy.
A 36-second version of Quock’s video posted to Twitter on Saturday. RootsAction While activists are walking with De Leon inside the event to call for his resignation, Reedy is standing in front of a city council member, holding his phone to his face. As De Leon reaches the door, someone pushes Reedy away.
The video shows De Leon going through the door to the back room and trying to close it. But Reedy follows, and the councilors appear to push him back. Reedy puts his arms up and stands nose-to-nose with De Leon. After a brief struggle, De Leon grabs Reedy, pushes him onto a table, and tries to push him out of the room.
In an interview on Saturday, De Leon said he tried to leave but the group kept blocking the exit. Eventually, he said, he ended up in a narrow hallway where he was pushed against a wall. At that point, Reedy “poked me in the pelvis” and “headbutted him in the forehead,” he said. He said it was when he grabbed Reedy and put him on the table.
A social worker who attended the event and identified only himself as Giovanni for fear of retaliation told The Times he saw Reedy unsuccessfully attempt to headbutt De Leon.
Video does not capture bumps or headbutts. De Leon, who was told by a reporter that the two appeared to hit heads, said, “We didn’t hit heads…he hit me on the head.” He also disputed those who refer to what unfolded as a fight, stating that it was an “unprovoked assault”.
“I had to defend myself,” De Leon said. “There comes a time when you have to defend yourself. We are not the aggressors. They came to the event to confuse and agitate.”
Reedy’s attorney, Shakeer Rahman, said the video clearly identified De León as the perpetrator.
“Not only has Kevin de Leon lost all political legitimacy, but his claim that he was the one attacked here only underscores how he has lost touch with reality. “It’s a disgrace,” Rahman said, adding that De Leon was “a disgrace.”
De Leon says Reedy punched him in the face after pushing him down the hallway. Another video of the incident reviewed by The Times shows the punch. Rahman said Reedy sat “until he had no choice but to defend himself”.
De Leon’s chief of staff, Jennifer Barraza, said Reedy pinched her chin with his elbow during the scuffle.
Los Angeles police are investigating the incident after both De Leon and Reedy filed police reports. De Leon added that it is considering seeking a restraining order against Reedy.
Friday’s incident only further divided De Leon’s fellow council members.
The two characterized it as an “attack” on De Leon and his staff. The council’s chairman, Krekorian, called what happened an “unbearable” crime against council members.Monica Rodriguez, who represents the Northeast Valley, said in a statement that the protesters’ actions were “terrorism”. said.
“The physical attacks on Alderman de Leon and his staff at holiday events are not protected justice and those who justify these acts are complicit in the attacks,” she said.
On the other hand, with incoming Councilor Hugo Soto Martinez Unices Hernandez The video said it would provide another reason for De Leon to step down soon.
“As this video clearly shows, Kevin De Leon, when given the opportunity to walk away, chose to be defiant, as he has done many times on the floor,” said Grassell Park from Hollywood. Soto Martinez, who represents the district that extends to tweeted on saturday“This is another example of why he is disqualified as leader. He must do the right thing and step down if our city is to recover.”
Times staff writers David Zahniser and Julia Wick contributed to this report.