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Los Angeles Times
Los Angeles Times
Julia Wick, David Zahniser, Dakota Smith and Benjamin Oreskes

Kevin de León returns to LA City Council, meeting is abruptly halted

LOS ANGELES — Los Angeles City Council member Kevin de León showed up for Tuesday’s council meeting nearly two hours into the proceedings, prompting council President Paul Krekorian to immediately call a recess.

Council members walked out of the chamber as competing groups of spectators screamed, with protesters angrily yelling for de León to leave and supporters of the council member chanting his name and “Sí, se puede.”

As de León entered the room, Council members Hugo Soto-Martinez and Eunisses Hernandez quickly headed for the exit and Krekorian called for a 10-minute recess as other members left the chamber.

The upheaval took place on a critical day for City Hall. The council has a number of high-profile items on its agenda, including Mayor Karen Bass’ declaration of a homelessness emergency and the extension of a COVID-19 eviction moratorium through Jan. 13. It’s also the first time five new council members took their seats around the horseshoe, and their last meeting until mid-January.

With the council in recess, Krekorian and de León quietly conferred for more than 15 minutes with intermittent screams from protesters echoing through the room. Krekorian then exited the chamber after speaking to police and de León — who remained in his seat — began a lengthy conversation with staff members.

As of 12:40 p.m. he was still conferring with staff.

If the council does not reconvene the meeting, Bass could see her first major policy proposal delayed by a month.

It was not immediately clear whether de León would stay for the rest of the meeting or leave early, as he did on Friday, when his reappearance sparked a furor in the audience, with supporters and detractors in the chamber shouting at each other.

The council currently has one vacancy. Ten of the council’s 15 members must be in the room for the council to conduct business.

Council members Soto-Martinez and Hernandez both said Tuesday that they would leave the chamber if de León showed up. A Soto-Martinez spokesman said his boss would avoid any portion of the meeting that de León attends.

Council members Traci Park and Katy Young Yaroslavsky said Monday they would continue to meet if de León were present. Meanwhile, several others declined to divulge their plans.

Council member Monica Rodriguez left the chamber around noon, telling a reporter she had an appointment. A de León spokesman said he did not know how long his boss would remain in the meeting.

De León has faced widespread calls for his resignation as fallout from a racist leaked audio tape roiled the city. Hours after returning to council chambers Friday, he was involved in a fight with an activist during a Christmas tree lighting and toy giveaway in Lincoln Heights.

Bass declared a state of emergency on homelessness after taking office Monday, a move that needs a City Council vote in order to go into effect. The declaration would allow her to spend money on services and facilities to assist L.A.'s unhoused without competitive bidding or council approval.

Council member Tim McOsker said he planned to confer with the council’s leadership to determine whether he would conduct the meeting with de León present.

The council needs to proceed with “the essential functions of government,” he said. “I don’t know how we proceed at this point,” McOsker said, standing in a hallway near the council chamber.

Escorted by several police officers, de León had entered City Hall around noon, coming in through a door off Temple Street.

“We have millions of folks who go to work every day with folks that they don’t like and they still get up every morning and go to work,” de León said, when asked about those who both oppose and support him. “We just got to get back to work.”

The embattled council member also noted that he has the “largest homeless population in the country” in his district and referenced Bass’ emergency order.

“We have to get this emergency order done,” de León said.

The already fraught tenor of council meetings grew far more volatile in October, following the release of an incendiary recording that captured de León, two former council members and a top labor leader in a raw conversation about the city’s redistricting process that included racist and derogatory comments about a host of groups.

Nury Martinez, who was then council president, said white council member Mike Bonin handled his young Black son as though he were an “accessory” and described the child as “parece changuito,” or “like a monkey.”

De León appeared to compare Bonin’s handling of his child to Martinez holding a Louis Vuitton handbag. He later said he was referring to Martinez’s “penchant for having luxury accessories.”

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