LOS ANGELES (CNS) - The Los Angeles City Council meeting devolved into chaos today when embattled Councilman Kevin de León walked into the chamber and took his seat, prompting some of his colleagues to walk out of the room and generating shouts of protest from activists demanding his resignation.
De León was not present when the council meeting began Tuesday, but protests had already filled much of the council chamber, disrupting and delaying the start of the session as they have done for weeks since the City Hall racism scandal broke.
It was the council's first meeting featuring five new members, and City Clerk Holly Wolcott struggled to get the boisterous crowd under control as she tried to convene the session so a council president could be selected. She ordered one protester -- who repeatedly shouted ``Arrest KDL'' -- to be ejected from the council chamber.
When the meeting was finally able to start, the council re-elected Paul Krekorian as council president. The meeting then continued as normal, but turmoil erupted shortly before noon when de León walked into the chamber and took his seat at the council horseshoe. Several council members stood up and walked out of the chamber in response. Protesters in the audience immediately stood and shouted their disapproval, hurling insults at de León and demanding that the council suspend its meetings until he steps down.
With the chamber in an uproar, Krekorian declared a five-minute recess, and council members -- except for de León -- left the room. Krekorian walked over to him and the pair had a lengthy private discussion at de León's seat. The pair talked for more than 15 minutes, after which Krekorian left the room, but de León still remained, conferring for members of his staff.
Protesters continued shouting and chanting, but de León remained it the chamber conferring with his staff, extending the council recess for more than an hour. At about 1:10 p.m., de León finally walked out of the chamber, and other council members slowly filed back into the room. Krekorian remained outside of the chamber, so council President Pro-Tem Curren Price re-convened the meeting, with some protesters still chanting in the audience.
At one point, de León briefly walked back into the room, but did not take his seat. Krekorian then walked back into the chamber, and walked de León out again. It was de León's second appearance at a council meeting since Oct. 11. He tried to attend the meeting on Friday, but protesters shouted for him to leave, prompting a roughly 45-minute recess before de León departed.
Hours later, de León fought with community activist Jason Reedy at a holiday event in Lincoln Heights. Reedy and other protesters have regularly shown up at City Council meetings the last two months to demand that de León resign before the council conducts its business.
Pete Brown, de León's spokesman, told City News Service over the weekend that de León ``absolutely'' intended to be at Tuesday's council meeting despite the likelihood that it would create disruption. Brown said that it would be ``up to the leadership on the council to control the activities in council,'' which was ``outside of Mr. de León's control.''
While de León has been formally censured by the council, the decision is largely symbolic and currently bears no penalties under the City Charter. The council cannot remove a member. There is a recall effort against de León that is in the process of collecting signatures.
Three members -- Mike Bonin, Marqueece Harris-Dawson and Nithya Raman - - walked out on Friday when de León entered the chamber. But others indicated on Monday at a briefing that they would stay even if de León tried to attend the meeting.
``We have a tremendous amount of work to do to move our communities and our city forward,'' said Councilwoman Traci Park, who replaced Bonin as the 11th District's representative. ``I think the position's been made perfectly clear by all of us about how we feel with respect to Council member de León and his role on the council. But we've got to move the work forward.''
Councilwoman Katy Young Yaroslavsky, newly elected to represent the 5th District, said she would stay ``because this is my first City Council meeting.''
``There's a lot of city business to do, and we can't keep putting it off forever,'' Yaroslavsky said.
Councilwoman Monica Rodriguez agreed, adding that she planned to ``continue to do the work for the people that elected me, and for the oath that I took.'' Harris-Dawson said in a tweet on Friday that he was not ``ready to excuse'' de León's behavior, with Councilwoman Eunisses Hernandez agreeing.
In response to de León's fight with Reedy, Councilman Hugo Soto- Martinez said on Twitter that the video showed that de León ``chose to be defiant, just as he's done multiple times in council chambers.''
``This is yet another example of what disqualifies him to lead,'' Soto- Martinez said. ``For our city to heal, he must do the right thing and resign.'' Raman, in a statement on Monday, said that de León's ``continued presence on the City Council is causing severe and ongoing harm, and his apparent lack of concern for this fact is further evidence that he is unqualified to lead.''
The council requires 10 members for a quorum -- which means it can afford to lose four members to still hold a meeting, with the Sixth District seat vacant after Nury Martinez's resignation.