Los Angeles City Councilman Kevin de León on Friday night was involved in a physical altercation with an activist, Jason Reedy, during a community Christmas event in Lincoln Park. While handing out gifts to children during this event, de Leon was heckled by activists who called him a racist and demanded his resignation from the city council for his part in the racist conversation leaked earlier this fall.
On Saturday afternoon, de León put out a statement that he and his staff tried to exit the event but Reedy allegedly assaulted de León, a staff member and a volunteer in front of attendees, among them children.
Both De León and Reedy filed police reports against each other. The Los Angeles Police Department is investigating.
It’s past time that de León resign. Regardless of who is at fault in this shameful altercation witnessed by children, his presence on the City Council is a continued distraction and offense.
This incident follows two months of public discontent stemming from the October leak of 2021 audio in which de León, Councilman Gil Cedillo, then Council President Nury Martínez and L.A. County Federation of Labor President Ron Herrera engaged in a discussion that disparaged indigenous Mexicans, Oaxacans, the Black and LGBT community and fellow Councilman Mike Bonin’s family.
Martínez and Herrera, after some time, got the message — the leaking of their closed-door racist and homophobic remarks required them to resign their posts in order for the business of government and labor to continue. De León and Cedillo, however, have continued to stand their ground, hoping to ride out the scandal and maintain their political careers. Cedillo’s term ended Monday and the newly elected Eunisses Hernandez will take his place on the City Council.
De León on his official social media channels alleged that the activists involved had been harassing members of his staff and him for more than a year and that they blocked all exists when he attempted to leave the event to deescalate tensions.
“The escalating political rhetoric is beyond unacceptable, now turning verbal threats into physical acts of violence,” read the statement issued by de Leon. “Leaders must collectively step up to curb rising hostilities towards staff and elected officials.”
But Saturday’s incident shows that it’s time for de León to take his own advice to “step up to curb rising hostilities.” De León should “step up” and resign his seat now.
During his 2018 U.S. Senate campaign, de León relished in touting his mother’s immigrant story and expressing his alleged disgust of the anti-immigrant and anti-Latino rhetoric of former President Donald Trump and members of the Republican Party. Somehow, according de León’s reasoning, his colorist, homophobic rhetoric and agreement in this closed-door meeting is forgivable enough to continue on the council.
With Martínez at the helm of the council, it was the first time that the L.A. City Council was led by a Latina. So why were four Latino local leaders disparaging members of their own community?
Calling and remaining silent in the face of calling indigenous Mexicans and Oaxacans residing in Koreatown “little short dark people,” “Oaxacan Koreans,” “feos” as well as saying you don’t know “what village they came [from]” is unforgivable, particularly when the majority of these leaders use their ethnic backgrounds to campaign, frame their accomplishments and appeal to their constituents and voters.
Los Angeles deserves better leadership and de León should not be allowed to govern on behalf of the very people he insulted.
What has been largely overlooked in de León’s recorded comments is his latent homophobia — claiming that Bonin, a gay man and a father to an adopted Black child, treats his son like Martínez uses her luxury bag. It is obvious that de León’s claim of allyship to the LGBT community is merely political pandering when he feels comfortable enough to claim privately that LGBT parents accessorize their children or treat them as props.
Friday night’s physical altercation between de León and the activist is not acceptable. Political violence is never tolerable nor should it be the norm in a democracy like ours. However, de León must accept that his refusal to resign led to this boiling point and explosive altercation.
Constituents and voters remain offended and angry at the remarks made during this closed-door meeting. They are hungry for genuine representation, leaders who live up to their public personas and are tired of elected representatives who see them as gambling chips to be traded in closed-door meetings.
What does it matter that our elected representatives and local leaders look like us if they engage in disparaging rhetoric against their own people and constituents in private?
People of color have fought for generations to have the opportunity to lead in historically all-white elected bodies. When we finally have a seat in these decision-making spaces, why do we feel the need to engage in the same tokenizing and degradation of other people of color in order to feel powerful or hold on to it?
In this cycle, the oppressed become the oppressors, and we don’t really get anywhere in the fight for equity and justice.