LOS ANGELES (CNS) - Los Angeles police are continuing their investigation Monday into the altercation between embattled L.A. City Councilman Kevin de León and a community activist at a Christmas tree lighting in Lincoln Heights -- a confrontation that one witness said caused some children at the event to "cry and scream."
"Once the kids get involved, that's a big no-no," DJ Alan Ochoa told the Los Angeles Times after describing how protesters tried to prevent de León from leaving the event along with a woman and her infant. Ochoa said he and one of his employees then helped push the protesters aside.
"He was walking away," Ochoa said, "but these guys did not let him walk away. They were just in his way. If you're going to be proving your point, do it outside. Don't go in there and mess up a whole community event," Ochoa said.
LAPD officials said Saturday that officers responded to "a large fight" at 6:30 p.m. Friday involving four males and four females in the 3500 block of Valley Boulevard.
"The preliminary investigation revealed that Los Angeles City Councilmember Kevin de León was involved in an altercation," the LAPD statement said. "While participating in a local community event, Councilmember de León was approached by multiple community members, who blocked his path of travel as he attempted to leave the building. It was during this encounter that an allegation was made of one male, identified as Jason Reedy, headbutting, pushing, and punching Councilmember de León.
"Councilmember de León and Reedy continued the altercation outside of the building, where Reedy left before officers' arrival," police continued. "Shortly after the incident, officers completed a battery report for Councilmember de León. 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.
"Detective Support and Vice Division's Threat Management Unit will continue to investigate this incident."
De León has faced intense pressure from city colleagues, state and national elected officials and activists to resign ever since a leaked audio was released of an October 2021 conversation about redistricting that featured the councilman and others using racial slurs and blunt talk of political power grabs that has roiled the city for months.
The councilman was on stage at Lincoln Park Friday when a group of five to six people approached him, according to de León's communications director, Pete Brown.
"A group of so-called `activists' -- who have been harassing my staff and me for more than a year -- cornered and physically assaulted me, a staff member, and a volunteer during a holiday event on Friday evening," de León said in a statement Saturday morning.
"(Community activist) Jason Reedy and his accomplices started by shouting obscenities and disrupting a community toy giveaway and tree lighting ceremony already underway. I decided to try to exit the event to draw the disrupters away from the attending families and children and leave without further incident. 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," de León's statement continued. "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."
However, 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 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 pulls 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 ... 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.
On Saturday morning, Roots Action tweeted a longer video that showed the moments leading up to the fight. In it, Reedy is seen getting into de León's face while backpedaling, holding a cell phone and demanding that he resign. De León exits the room and tries to close a door behind him but Reedy forces his way through and backs de Leon against a wall while holding both his arms high in the air. Reedy puts his head against de León's and appears to lightly bump heads with him twice before the councilman responds and charges forward, man-handling Reedy and forcing him onto a table.
Shakeer Rahman, an attorney representing Reedy, denied that his client head-butted the councilman in a statement to the 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."
The Lincoln Park appearance came hours after de León attended a City 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.
Brown, de León's spokesman, said Reedy was ejected from Friday's council meeting because he was getting into a fight with someone else.
"When they came in (at the tree-lighting event), the councilman recognized them and tried to get them away from audience members and families," Brown told City News Service. "They cornered him, he had nowhere to go, and you saw what happened."
Brown told CNS that de León "absolutely" intends to be at Tuesday's council meeting, when the council will seat new members elected in November and vote on a new council president, despite the demonstrators' ongoing attempts to disrupt meetings.
"It's up to the leadership on the council to control the activities in council. That's outside of Mr. de Leon's control," Brown said. "No council member should be intimidated or threatened not to show up and be able to do their job."