Los Angeles City Councilmember Kevin de León was involved in a “large fight” while at a Christmas tree lighting event in Lincoln Heights on Friday night, authorities said.
Police received reports of the fight breaking out around 6:30 p.m. at the 3500 block of Valley Boulevard, according to Los Angeles Police.
Video shared by Roots Action and J-Town Action and Solidarity Friday night shows de León wrestling with a man in a hallway during the holiday event.
A longer version of the video released on Saturday shows that before the altercation in the hallway, de León attempted to walk away from the protesters and closed a door behind him. Protesters then pushed through the doorway, with one man — later identified by the Los Angeles Police Department as Jason Reedy — bumping chests with the council member.
The altercation ultimately breaks out as de León and Reedy push against each other.
Though it was not captured on the released video clips, the brawl continued outside, police said.
In a statement on Saturday, de León said the “so-called ‘activists’ … Jason Reedy and his accomplices” yelled obscenities and disrupted the tree lighting ceremony and toy giveaway.
“I decided to try to exit the event to draw the disrupters away from the attending families and children and leave without further incident,” de León said in the statement. “Still, we discovered Reedy and others had blocked all available exits.
“Once we were able to push open a door and try to get out, Reedy launched a pelvic thrust, followed by a headbutt to my forehead. My response, in defense of myself, was to push him off of me. 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.
“The escalating political rhetoric is beyond unacceptable, now turning verbal threats into physical acts of violence. It’s a dangerous pattern that must end before more serious harm or loss of life occurs. Leaders must collectively step up to curb rising hostilities towards staff and elected officials. In no way is violence a form of free speech and acts like these have no place in politics or democracy.”
Pete Brown, de León’s communications director, told KTLA these activists have “accosted” de León at previous events.
However, Shakeer Rahman, an attorney representing Reedy, issued a statement to the Los Angeles Times on Friday disputing that allegation, adding that de León is “a disgrace.”
“Video footage clearly shows him and his supporters initiating this assault while Mr. Reedy stands prone,” Rahman said. “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.”
Police say the fight involved eight people — four women and four men — who had fled the scene by the time officers arrived.
In a news release, police said de León remained and filed a battery report against Reedy for “headbutting, pushing, and punching.”
“Several hours later, Reedy also completed a battery report at a local police station, where an allegation was made that Councilmember de León grabbed and threw Reedy,” police added.
De León made headlines earlier on Friday while attending his first City Council meeting following a months-long absence since becoming embroiled in a scandal over racist remarks. He showed up unannounced, prompting three council members to walk out, including Councilmember Mike Bonin.
De León has been under fire ever since leaked audio captured derogatory remarks made by then-Council President Nury Martinez and others, perhaps the most incendiary of which was Martinez comparing Bonin’s Black child to a “little monkey.” She also belittled Oaxacans in Koreatown.
De León, among others, was present at the meeting and has been criticized for not condemning the racist and offensive language spoken.
Despite the controversy, de León has thus far refused to resign from his position.
Council President Paul Krekorian issued a statement condemning the violence, which he called “intolerable in a free society.”
“No matter what disputes we may have with elected officials or our fellow citizens, violence like this is completely unacceptable,” Krekorian said. “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.”
Despite Krekorian’s condemnation of the protesters who attacked de León, the council president has repeatedly and publicly called for the embattled councilman to resign his position and step down from the city council.
So far, no arrests have been made.
Editor’s Note: A previous version of this article incorrectly implied that Mr. Krekorian supported De León remaining on the city council. Krekorian has consistently and publicly called for De León to resign.