Kevin de León. Photo from L.A. City Council meeting livestream

Los Angeles police have launched an investigation into an altercation between Los Angeles City Councilman Kevin de León and a community activist who have accused each other of assault during the embattled councilman’s appearance at a Christmas tree lighting in Lincoln Heights.

De León’s communications director Pete Brown told KCAL9 the councilmember was on stage at Lincoln Park about 6:30 p.m. Friday when a group of five to six people approached him. The group rushed de León as he tried to leave the stage with a woman and her infant, Brown said.

One of the people in the group allegedly headbutted de León, which caused an altercation between the two men, the councilman and others at the scene said.

De León released a statement saying “a staff member, volunteer, and I were violently and physically assaulted by self-proclaimed activists at a community holiday event to the dismay of a multitude of families and children who were there to celebrate a Christmas tree lighting and to receive toys and food.

“The escalating rhetoric is hitting a fever pitch, transcending from verbal threats into actual acts of violence and must end before more serious harm or loss of life occurs,” the statement said. “Violence is not free speech and has no place in politics or democracy.”

J-Town Action & Solidarity, which bills itself as “a grassroots collective building community power in Little Tokyo,” and the progressive group Roots Action accused de León of assaulting local organizer Jason Reedy. The organizations shared a 10-second video on Twitter showing de León holding onto Reedy, then pulling him down to a table.

De León then pulled Reedy away from the table and toward a wall when the video ends.

Late Friday, J-Town organizer Steven Chun released a statement explaining the group’s side of the encounter.

“We came to this event alongside our comrade Jason to hold KDL accountable for his racism and fascist policies,” Chun’s statement said. “As we approached him and demanded that he resign, we were all assaulted by his supporters and were even called racial insults and slurs such as `Oriental.’

“Once we were pushed out of the gymnasium doors into the hallway, all I saw was KDL’s anti-Blackness manifest into physical violence yet again as he assaulted Jason for the second time this year. They then physically threw us outside and we all left promptly afterwards. Kevin needs to resign immediately and never show his unhinged racist face in public again.”

De León said the video does not fully show what happened.

“What the video doesn’t capture, most conveniently, is he thrusted his pelvis into me and then he head-butted me right into the head,” de León said. “When he head-butted me is when I grabbed him and put him on the table – I held him on the table there for maybe five to 10 seconds.

“Then, at that moment, I let him go. Another melee ensued. He turned the corner, he threw a punch at me – a full blown punch, hit me right in the face, threw a second punch at me, missed me.”

Shakeer Rahman, an attorney representing Reedy, denied that his client head-butted the councilman in a statement to the Los Angeles Times and called De León “a disgrace.”

“Video footage clearly shows him and his supporters initiating this assault while Mr. Reedy stands prone,” Rahman told the newspaper. “Not only has Kevin de León lost all political legitimacy, his claims that he was the one attacked here simply underscores how he’s lost touch with reality.”

A police report has been filed, and the video is now a part of the investigation, according to media reports. No one was taken into custody and the LAPD did not release the names of the people involved.

The Los Angeles Police Department told KCAL9 they responded to the location of the event after receiving a report of a “large group fight.” Authorities told KCAL9 that when officers arrived there was a man receiving treatment from paramedics for “body pain.”

City Council President Paul Krekorian released a statement Friday calling for both sides to settle their disputes in a non-violent manner.

“This evening, Councilmember Kevin De León, a member of his staff and a volunteer were physically attacked by people who disrupted a community holiday event to call for his resignation,” the statement said. “This kind of crime is intolerable in a free society, and the incident will be vigorously investigated by the Los Angeles Police Department. No matter what disputes we may have with elected officials or our fellow citizens, violence like this is completely unacceptable. In a free society political disagreements are unavoidable, and passionate discussion is necessary, but violence discredits the cause that employs it.

“This city has endured horrendous division and toxicity in recent months. We need to reject hatred in all of its forms, and we need to reject the atmosphere of intimidation, bullying and threats that have become all too commonplace in this city and across the country. Whatever position each of us takes on the controversies of the day, we need to reject violent words and especially violent acts, and we need to start treating each other with the same respect we want others to show us even when we disagree.”

Councilmember Marqueece Harris-Dawson shared his thoughts about the incident on Twitter.

“Some people are ready to excuse CM de Leon’s behavior. I am not.”

The Lincoln Park appearance came hours after de León attended a council meeting for the first time since Oct. 11. His appearance was brief as protesters immediately shouted for him to leave, and he was no longer present following a recess of about 45 minutes.

De León has defied widespread calls to resign over his participation in a racist 2021 conversation with Council members Gil Cedillo and Nury Martinez and a top county labor official that was leaked in October. He is also facing a recall effort that is in the process of gathering signatures.

Protesters have regularly shown up at meetings demanding that de León and Cedillo resign before the city conducts its business.

Martinez and the labor leader resigned in October. Cedillo lost his bid for re-election.

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