Pressure continued to grow on Los Angeles City Council members Kevin de LeÃ³n and Gil Cedillo to resign Sunday in a racism scandal surrounding the city’s redistricting process.
Black Lives Matter protesters were staging a campout Sunday morning in front of de LeÃ³n’s home in Eagle Rock, demanding that he step down for his role in a leaked conversation that has already prompted the resignations of former council president Nury Martinez and former L.A. County Federation of Labor president Ron Herrera.
Protests caused the City Council to cancel Friday’s scheduled meeting, and nearly all of their colleagues are urging de LeÃ³n and Cedillo to resign.
The ongoing chaos has also exposed the ongoing political power struggle between Los Angeles’ Black and Latino communities. A group of Black civil rights leaders scheduled a 10:30 a.m. news conference Sunday, when they are expected to demand that Martinez be replaced by one of the council’s African American members to “demonstrate its commitment to Black political empowerment and political and racial healing.”
“The situation is fluid right now,” Councilman Marqueece Harris-Dawson told City News Service on Friday. “We’re in a period where we’re in a holding pattern, waiting for these resignations.”
Acting Council President Mitch O’Farrell said Thursday the “people’s business cannot be conducted” until de LeÃ³n and Cedillo resign, but Dan Halden, O’Farrell’s communications director, said Friday that “we do have to conduct business.”
O’Farrell has been in touch with Cedillo but has not been able to reach de LeÃ³n since Tuesday, according to Halden.
This week’s meetings Tuesday and Wednesday will be conducted remotely due a COVID-19 exposure. Councilman Mike Bonin — whose young Black son was the target of some of Martinez’s most offensive slurs — tested positive last week after delivering a tearful 12-minute speech in the council chamber at Tuesday’s meeting.
“With the possibility that there will be more positive cases, out of an abundance of caution we will hold both Tuesday and Wednesday’s meetings virtually, as we did for over a year during the height of the pandemic,” O’Farrell said in a statement.
Along with Martinez and Herrera, de LeÃ³n and Cedillo were included in a recorded October 2021 conversation in which racist statements were made as the four officials discussed the city’s redistricting process. Martinez, who made most of the offensive remarks, resigned last Monday as council president, took a leave of absence Tuesday, then resigned her seat altogether one day later under intense pressure.
It is unclear what will happen if de LeÃ³n and Cedillo do not resign by Tuesday. At least two council members — Harris-Dawson and Bonin — and Councilwoman-elect Eunisses Hernandez said the council should not meet without resignations from de LeÃ³n and Cedillo.
Harris-Dawson expects to meet Tuesday “because they will have already resigned,” he told CNS, though Harris-Dawson did not have any knowledge of the two embattled members’ thinking.
When asked by CNS if the potential for another disruption factored into the decision to hold the meetings virtually, Halden said the move was “about the COVID-19 diagnosis.”
Bonin tweeted Saturday that his most recent COVID test, taken Saturday morning, was negative.
De LeÃ³n and Cedillo, who attempted to attend last Tuesday’s meeting but were asked to leave after protesters voiced objections to their presence, would be able to attend the virtual meetings without facing the public face-to-face. Their attendance would “not be appropriate, no matter the format in which we are meeting,” Halden said.
A member of Black Lives Matter Los Angeles tweeted photos Sunday morning showing that protesters had set up tents in de Leon’s Eagle Rock neighborhood.
“24/7 encampment in front of LA Councilmember Kevin de Leon’s Eagle Rock home. LAPD is keeping a close watch,” she wrote.
Officer Rosario Cervantes of the Los Angeles Police Department’s Media Relation Section told CNS that there were “no patrol units at a specific location” in the LAPD’s Northeast station area.
On Saturday, protesters showed up outside de LeÃ³n’s home dressed as sanitation workers, making noise with a bullhorn and leaf blower.
“NOTICE OF MAJOR CLEANING: Kevin De Leon is getting a wake up call this morning since he still hasn’t decided to resign,” the left-wing group People’s City Council – Los Angeles tweeted. “Looks like LA SAN and crew are here to give him the same treatment that our Unhoused neighbors get in his district everyday.”
The group later tracked de LeÃ³n to a home in Glendale, where he is reportedly staying with a friend, and posted another “MAJOR CLEANING” notice.
Later Saturday, hundreds of members of local indigenous communities marched in downtown Los Angeles, demanding the resignation of de LeÃ³n and Cedillo. Some of the demonstrators wore traditional Oaxacan outfits.
Martinez can be heard on the leaked recording calling Oaxacans “little short dark people.”
“I don’t know what village they came [from], how they got here, but boy they’re ugly,” the former council president says at one point.
De LeÃ³n, 55, has been on the council since 2020 and made an unsuccessful run for mayor this year. He previously served in the state Senate and Assembly. Cedillo, 68, has been in office since 2013 but was defeated by Hernandez in the June primary.
Harris-Dawson sought a bit of empathy for the pair, noting the intense media focus on the scandal and the potential that they might feel like they’ve been misunderstood.
“They all, particularly Gil Cedllo, they have a body of work that sort of gets overlooked in the heat of this particular moment,” Harris-Dawson said. “So, I just think it takes a moment emotionally and logistically to get to the place where you can step up and do the right thing.”
Harris-Dawson, who is Black, was mentioned in the leaked recording. He said he hasn’t spoken to either councilman.
“You always know that there’s anti-Black racism all around you,” Harris-Dawson said. “You don’t realize that there’s anti-Black sentiment sitting right next to you. So I think it’s going to be a while before we get to the stage where there can be regular interaction.”
The council is set to take up several major items Tuesday, including electing a new council president, considering placing a measure on the 2024 ballot to create an independent redistricting commission for the city and a motion to explore expanding the number of council seats.