LA City Council ejects protesters from chambers during latest meeting
LOS ANGELES - The Los Angeles City Council quickly ejected protesters Tuesday after they again attempted to disrupt the council's meeting, demanding that Councilmen Kevin de León and Gil Cedillo resign over their roles in the City Hall racism scandal before the council resumes regular business.
Council President Paul Krekorian had previously allowed a couple of dozen protesters to chant, shout and slap benches while the council members continued with the meeting, with council members wearing earphones to hear.
But on Tuesday, Krekorian immediately gave three warnings before asking police in riot gear to clear the protesters from the chamber. Krekorian called out Hamid Khan, an organizer with Stop LAPD Spying Coalition, and Pete White, founder of the Los Angeles Community Action Network, by name. Khan was using a bullhorn to yell at the council.
Khan, who has been among those attempting to shut down council meetings since the scandal broke, told City News Service last week that the council should not be conducting business as usual.
"This was again an indication of speaking over people' voices, trying to silence them, intimidate them, threaten them -- with a heavy police presence," Khan said of the council resuming meetings.
Krekorian cited Council Rule 12, which states in part that "no person in the audience at a Council or Committee meeting shall engage in conduct that disrupts the orderly conduct of any Council or Committee meeting." Krekorian, in his third week as council president, had not cited the rule by name during previous protests.
He said the council could not proceed because the protesters were "making noise, including using noisemakers."
"This is creating an actual disruption," he said.
Krekorian made it through a few sentences at the start of the meeting before one protester shook a noisemaker, and the rest joined in with shouts and yells. But within minutes, the chamber was quiet as the protesters slowly backed away from the aisle and exited, chanting all the way out the door -- and the council proceeded with its meeting.
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Toward the end of the two-hour public comment period, Krekorian ejected a few more protesters who began chanting "No resignations, no meetings."
Jason Reedy, an organizer with the activist group People's City Council, told the council during public comment that protesters would be back during Wednesday's and Friday's meetings.
"No meetings, no resignations," Reedy said. "Many of you made the commitment when the scandal came out that you guys weren't going to go on with business as usual. But what are we doing here? Business as usual."
On Friday, protesters were kept waiting outside City Hall due to what officials claimed was the chamber reaching capacity. Protesters had disrupted most of last week's Tuesday and Wednesday meetings. Krekorian had previously ordered the chamber cleared toward the end of Wednesday's meeting.
Hugh Esten, a spokesman for Council President Paul Krekorian, told City News Service the capacity was reduced to around 100 people when the council chamber reopened to the public in April, a reduction from the capacity of 234 people listed on a sign outside the chamber. Esten cited recommendations by the county's health department under COVID-19 guidelines.
Workers from the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power arrived at least an hour before the Friday meeting began and took up most of the rows in the chamber, keeping protesters who had interrupted meetings earlier in the week with chants and shouts from entering. There were several items on the agenda related to LADWP contracts.
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Though it appeared there were empty seats in the chamber as the meeting went on, Esten said that once the chamber reaches capacity, people waiting outside would not be let in.
Items on Tuesday's agenda included establishing an Office of Racial Equity, adopting the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance's working definition of antisemitism, providing funding to expand rental assistance in District 11 and voting on second consideration of a proposed ordinance prohibiting misleading advertising by pregnancy services centers in Los Angeles.
De León and Cedillo have defied fierce and widespread calls to resign for taking part in a leaked 2021 conversation that involved racist comments and attempts to manipulate redistricting, though a notice of intent to recall de León was filed with the city clerk's office on Thursday. Neither has attended a meeting since Oct. 11.
With neither de León nor Cedillo showing any indication they plan to resign, council members have stressed that certain city business needs to get done. The council also cannot expel its own members.
At a news briefing after he cleared the chamber Wednesday in response to protesters' refusal to quiet down, Krekorian claimed he has demonstrated "far more patience than should reasonably be expected in management of our council meetings." He prefaced that he didn't have much patience with the protesters in the first place.
"On the other hand, I recognize these are extraordinary times," said Krekorian, who last week instituted a hybrid system for public comment to allow speakers to testify remotely to the council.
De León has conducted a series of television and radio interviews reiterating his desire to regain the trust of the community and his colleagues. Cedillo, who lost his reelection bid, will be off the council in December regardless. But his only public comments since an initial statement the day the recordings were released have come through a spokesman, who maintains that Cedillo is at "a place of reflection."
"One way or the other, whether it's through technological means or whether it's through other means, this council will do the work that we've been elected to do," Krekorian said.