Los Angeles city council member Kevin de León was involved in a physical altercation where at one point he grabbed a demonstrator by the collar and slammed him onto a table, video shows.
In the clip, recorded on Friday at a toy giveaway and tree lighting event, activists can be seen pursuing Mr de León through a meeting hall, calling on him to resign.
“You’re anti-indigenous,” Jason Reedy, an organizer with People’s City Council, tells the official in close proximity. “You’re anti-Black kevin. You’re a racist.”
Eventually, the council member tries to exit through a set of double doors, and Mr Reedy follows him in, where a shoving match ensues.
“My response, in defense of myself, was to push him off of me,” Mr De León said in a statement to the Los Angeles Times. “In the ensuing struggle, Reedy struck me in the face with a closed fist, violently elbowed a female staff member, and injured a volunteer in front of horrified parents and children.”
Mr Reedy, meanwhile, claims the elected official was the aggressor, calling his conduct a “disgrace.”
“Mr Reedy was criticizing Kevin de León’s political record and echoing the widespread demands for him to resign,” his attorney, Shakeer Rahman, told the paper. “De León’s supporters then initiated physical contact by shoving him, and De León grabbed Mr Reedy. Mr Reedy had his hands up and made zero contact with anyone until after De León grabbed him.”
Mr De Leon has said he intends to press charges, and a police incident about the fight has been filed, ABC7 reports.
The dramatic video was the latest development in a tense day of LA politics involving Mr De Leon.
Earlier on Friday, the council member made his first physical appearance in the LA council chamber in two months, after he was one of a group of local politicos heard on a leaked tape in a discussion where another council member’s Black son was described as a “little monkey,” and officials discussed ways to dilute Black voting power.
When Mr De León arrived for the council meeting, fellow councilman Mike Bonin, whose son was insulted on the tape, got up and left.
“Vile racist Kevin de León just showed up for council,” Mr Bonin wrote on Twitter on Friday. “He needs to resign.”
In October, an anonymous Reddit user posted a 2021 recorded of Mr de León, former council president Nury Martinez, council member Gil Cedillo, and labour leader Ron Herrera talking about local politics and insulting Black people, Armenians, and Oaxacan immigrants to LA, many of whom hail from Mexico’s indigenous groups.
In the tape, Mr de León can be heard comparing Mr Bonin’s son to an accessory, like a luxury handbag.
Since the tape leaked, protestors have called for Mr de León to resign.
So far, he has refused, calling his comments a “bad joke.”
“I failed in my leadership,” he told CBS2 as the scandal broke. “I didn’t step up and intervene. I didn’t put a stop to it.”
Mr de León is among California’s most well-known Democrats, having been a top leader in the state senate, a Los Angeles mayoral candidate in 2022, and a candidate for US Senate in 2018.