Days after video of a scuffle with an activist surfaced, and months after racist remarks on tape went viral, Los Angeles councilman Kevin de León told CNN he will remain on the city council but again faced protests at the council’s scheduled meeting Tuesday.
The councilman has defied demands for his resignation and attended last week’s meeting, amid vociferous protests, “to get back to work,” he told CNN’s Kate Bolduan before the meeting. The last two months he said he’s been reflecting as well as talking with people in the Black community and said the bulk of his work is with department leaders and not just at meetings.
“Tens of millions of Americans go to work every single day with folks that they don’t like,” he reasoned. “You know what they do every morning? They get up and they go to work,” de León said.
Calls for de León’s resignation have continued since October, when audio of a year-old conversation between de Léon and fellow council members was posted anonymously on Reddit and obtained by the Los Angeles Times. Much of the conversation focused on maps proposed by the city’s redistricting commission and the council members’ frustration with them, but it also featured racist remarks about a fellow council member’s Black son and about Oaxacans. CNN was not able to verify the audio recording.
“I shouldn’t have said what I said,” de León told CNN on Tuesday, clarifying his remarks comparing White colleague Mike Bonin’s Black child to a designer handbag. “I was criticizing, actually, councilwoman Nury Martinez for her penchant for luxury handbags … and again, I shouldn’t have said that,” de León said. The councilman also said he has since apologized to Bonin and his family.
Then, on Friday, a video surfaced online of him engaged in a physical altercation with a community activist during a holiday event. De León said he was acting in self-defense, though an attorney for a local organizer involved in the scuffle says the councilman initiated the contact.
De León pointed to his body of work, including his work on environmental issues and advocacy on behalf of undocumented immigrants.
“That’s who I am, and those are my values, those are my principles, that’s not the person who folks have been describing,” he said.
Protesters at Tuesday’s meeting made it clear de León had gained back little, if any, of their favor.
Crowd members shouted, “Arrest KDL” and “KDL is anti-Black, we don’t want you coming back,” referring to de León. City Clerk Holly Wolcott and Deputy City Attorney Strefan Fauble repeatedly stated they could not hear each other over the crowd.
Members of the public demanded de León’s removal, and many questioned the legitimacy of the meeting and the council with his continued role as a member.
Though protests took much of the air during the meeting, Paul Krekorian was elected council president and councilmembers ratified newly elected Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass’s state of emergency on homelessness with a 13-0 vote.
This story has been updated with additional developments.