The Los Angeles City Council is set to reconvene Friday to wrap up a week of raucous meetings, which have been impacted by protesters vowing to return to City Hall demanding the council not meet until Councilmen Kevin de LeÃ³n and Gil Cedillo resign.
De LeÃ³n and Cedillo have defied fierce and widespread calls to resign for taking part in a leaked 2021 conversation that involved racist comments and attempts to manipulate redistricting, though a notice of intent to recall de LeÃ³n was filed with the city clerk’s office on Thursday.
On Wednesday, after clearing the chamber because protesters refused Council President Paul Krekorian’s request to quiet down, the council voted 12-0 to censure de LeÃ³n, Cedillo and former Councilwoman Nury Martinez — the first time the council has censured its own members since at least 1911.
That will probably not assuage the couple dozen protesters who have made noise through every minute of council meetings this week, until they were given an order to disperse on Wednesday. They have chanted, shouted and slapped benches in an attempt to keep the council from conducting its business. On Wednesday, they unfurled a large sign that read “This meeting is illegitimate.”
“We’ll be back!” the protesters vowed as they left the chamber Wednesday, passing by a sprawl of television cameras and reporters in the back.
“Who shut it down? We shut it down!” they continued chanting.
With neither de LeÃ³n nor Cedillo showing any indication that they plan to resign, council members have stressed that certain city business needs to get done. The council also cannot expel its own members.
But some have questioned the council’s priorities. Henry Perez, associate director of InnerCity Struggle — an Eastside nonprofit youth and family organization that does work in de LeÃ³n’s district — said to City News Service that the hurt, anger and frustration throughout the city is too deep.
“I really don’t see how the City Council can proceed with business as usual until this matter is taken care of, until the resignations are completed,” Perez said. “It’s a very untenable situation.”
At a news briefing after he cleared the chamber Wednesday, Krekorian claimed that he has demonstrated “far more patience than should reasonably be expected in management of our council meetings,” prefacing that he didn’t have much patience with the protesters in the first place.
“On the other hand, I recognize these are extraordinary times,” said Krekorian, who this week instituted a hybrid system for public comment to allow speakers to testify remotely to the council.
Council members, unable to hear over the protesters’ shouting, have had to wear earphones during the meeting. The only reasonable way for people to listen to council meetings this week has been to watch a live stream. Only one speaker has given public comment in-person this week, with protesters crowding around the podium for the entirety of the meetings.
“One way or the other, whether it’s through technological means or whether it’s through other means, this council will do the work that we’ve been elected to do,” Krekorian said.
On Friday, the council is set to vote on creating a new Ad Hoc Committee on City Governance Reform in response to the scandal. It is also scheduled to consider requesting a report from the city attorney on the legality of withholding salary payments to suspended Councilman Mark Ridley-Thomas, and hold a closed session on Ridley-Thomas’ lawsuit against Controller Ron Galperin and the city.
“We will continue to show up at these meetings,” Hamid Khan, an organizer with Stop LAPD Spying Coalition, told City News Service before Wednesday’s meeting. “We cannot allow this business as usual to continue.”
Khan, who has been among those attempting to shut down council meetings since the recording was released, said that censuring de LeÃ³n and Cedillo was just a formality.
“We’re asking and we’re demanding that there be no meetings until we have resignations,” said Nana Gyamfi, executive director of Black Alliance for Just Immigration. “Anything short of that is exactly that: short.”
De LeÃ³n has conducted a series of television and radio interviews reiterating his desire to regain the trust of the community and his colleagues. Cedillo, who lost his reelection bid, will be off the council in December regardless. But his only public comments since an initial statement the day the recordings were released have come through a spokesman, who maintains that Cedillo is at “a place of reflection.”
Neither councilmen has attended a meeting in more than two weeks, and a spokesman for de LeÃ³n said he will not be at meetings this week.
Krekorian stressed that he was not going to shut out the public from the council chamber, and that he would assess how to handle potential protesters on a meeting-by-meeting basis.
“We will not be taken off of that path by distractions, by noise, by disturbances, by disruptions in the meeting,” Krekorian said. “One way or the other, we will continue to do our work.”