Councilmember Kevin de León showed up at the Los Angeles City Council meeting on Friday morning, appearing for the first time since fallout from a racist leaked audio tape roiled the city in mid-October.
He walked into the council chamber just before 11 a.m., about 45 minutes after the meeting began, and sat in his chair with a staffer nearby.
Dozens of people, many of them Spanish-speaking, came to the meeting to show their support for De León. Some of them testified against proposals to impose new punishments for council members who, like De León, have been censured.
Council President Paul Krekorian approached De León and spoke to him, then some of De León’s colleagues began leaving the chamber. A recess was called as protesters voiced their disapproval.
The room quickly descended into chaos, with about a dozen protesters screaming for De León to leave and supporters of the embattled council member chanting “Kevin, Kevin, Kevin.”
“You allow anti-Blackness to take place,” shouted one audience member. “All of you are complicit in the destruction of L.A.,” another shouted.
While members of the crowd shouted at each other, police ejected two men from the room, saying they feared a fight would break out between them.
“Both men made comments or gestures to suggest that it was going to become physical, so we intervened at that time,” said Los Angeles Police Department Officer Marco Duarte, who is assigned to the council chamber.
De León last publicly appeared in council chambers on Oct. 11, when the council held their first meeting after The Times reported on the leaked audio of a private 2021 conversation among Councilmembers Gil Cedillo, Nury Martinez and De León, as well as then-president of the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, Ron Herrera.
De León and Cedillo started out that October council meeting by sitting in their chairs, but immediately became the subject of angry chants from the crowd, and eventually left the room. Cedillo has not been back to a council meeting since.
De León apologized in the wake of the tape but said he has no plans to resign and does not want to leave his constituents without representation. He has quietly begun to reenter the public sphere in the weeks since he last appeared in council chambers, attending food giveaways and other community events.
Virtually the entire Democratic establishment called for Cedillo and De León to resign in the wake of the leaked audio. The two other participants in the secretly recorded conversation, former Council President Martinez and Herrera, resigned from their posts in the immediate aftermath of the leak.
Protesters have been a constant presence at council meetings in recent months, with frequent chants promising to keep interrupting meetings until both Cedillo and De León resign. They also camped out at De León’s house for days at a time.
Cedillo was ousted by incoming Councilmember Eunisses Hernandez in a June election and Friday is his last council meeting before his term expires. But De León has two more years in office.