Video shows LA Councilmember brawling with local activist at Christmas event amid racist audio
Video shows LA Councilmember brawling with local activist at Christmas event amid racist audio fallout
A Los Angeles councilmember embroiled in an ongoing scandal over leaked audio of a racist conversation is now at the center of another controversy after footage showed him getting into a physical altercation with a local activist on Friday.
Kevin de León, once thought of as a rising political star in the progressive city, was one of the councilmembers present at a meeting with some of the city's top leaders in October 2021. Audio of the meeting included racist and derogatory remarks. It left the country's second most populous city in a state of turmoil as protesters shut down numerous city council meetings and led to multiple elected leaders resigning their posts.
Despite widespread pressure for his resignation — including from President Joe Biden — de León has dug in his heels and said he will remain in his seat.
Footage shows brawl break out between de León, activist Jason Reedy
The latest chapter in the controversy surrounding de León happened Friday when he attended a community holiday event with children and families, de León said in a tweet.
In video posted to Twitter, a group of people can be seen walking alongside de León, who was wearing a dress shirt and Santa hat, at the indoor event. Some in the crowd can be heard shouting, "Resign, Kevin!" and "You're a racist!" Many were recording on their cell phones.
The crowd follows de León through the room, with some of his staff appearing close by his side. De León walks through a set of doors and attempts to close them behind him. In the chaos of the crowd, which is hard to see in the footage, a local activist, Jason Reedy, who was identified by his attorney, also makes it through the doors, followed by a handful of other people.
The two come face to face and Reedy can be seen standing closely in front of de León, with his hands up in the air, and several others pressing around them.
As others in the small crowd reach for both de León and Reedy, de León appears to push Reedy forward toward a table then continues wrestling him, grabbing Reedy by the jacket before the footage ends.
In the chaotic scuffle, de León's bright red Santa hat can be seen flying.
LAPD investigating altercation
Police responded to reports of a "large fight" involving four males and four females at about 6:30 p.m. Friday, according to Los Angeles Police Department spokesperson Officer Matthew Cruz. An ambulance was also called for a 40-year-old man who said he had body pain after being assaulted. Cruz said suspects left the area before officers arrived.
A statement by the LAPD said de León remained at the scene, spoke with officers and made a battery report Friday evening, after Reedy and others had left. Reedy's report was made hours later, the statement said.
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Reedy's attorney, Shakeer Rahman, said his client reported the incident to police. A redacted copy of the report, obtained by USA TODAY, says Reedy was "grabbed and pushed by (multiple suspects)," including de León.
De León says he was head-butted, assaulted
In a statement posted on Twitter, de León said the activists were the aggressors.
De León said he, a volunteer and a staff member were "cornered and physically assaulted" by a group of "so-called 'activists.'"
De León said Reedy launched a "headbutt to my forehead" and he was forced to use self-defense and push Reedy away from him, the statement reads. According to the LAPD, de León reported he was "headbutted, pushed and punched" by Reedy. De León said the incident should never have happened.
"The escalating political rhetoric is unacceptable, now turning verbal threats into physical acts of violence. It's a dangerous pattern that must end before more serious harm or loss of life occurs," de León said.
Rahman told USA TODAY in a statement that de León was a "disgrace" and that de León was the one who initiated the physical contact in reaction to Reedy's criticism.
"Video footage clearly shows (de León) and his supporters initiating this assault while Mr. Reedy stands with his hands up. Not only has Kevin de León lost all political legitimacy, his claims that he was the one attacked here simply underscores how he’s lost touch with reality," Rahman said.
What to know about the leaked racist audio. How de León is connected
Earlier this year, audio of a meeting between former LA City Council President Nury Martinez, Federation of Labor President Ron Herrera and councilmembers de León and Gil Cedillo was posted to Reddit.
In it, Martinez can be heard making racist and derogatory remarks about the Black son of another councilmember and others.
What followed was a scandal that rocked the council, causing Martinez to resign. Herrera also gave up his post. Cedillo lost a June primary election and his time on the council will be up on Monday. De León has apologized, but said he plans to remain in his seat.
TIMELINE:Here's how racist leaked audio dismantled the Los Angeles City Council and led to Biden's intervention
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Earlier on Friday, de León attended his first city council meeting in person since the scandal unfolded, prompting some fellow members of the panel to walk out in protest. Among the colleagues to walk out was Mike Bonin, whose son was the subject of the racist remarks.
"Vile racist Kevin de León just showed up for council," Bonin tweeted. "He needs to resign."
"Some people are ready to excuse CM de Leon’s behavior. I am not," tweeted fellow Councilmember Marqueece Harris-Dawson, who also left the meeting, according to Bonin.
Who is Kevin de León?
De León, 56, has served on the LA Council for district 14, which includes downtown Los Angeles, for just over two years. He placed third with nearly 8% of the vote in the LA mayoral primary earlier this year, before news of the audio recording broke.
Previously, he unsuccessfully challenged Sen. Dianne Feinstein in 2018 for the U.S. Senate.