Protesters vow to keep pressure on LA Councilman Kevin de León to resign

A day after Los Angeles Councilman Kevin de León said he does not plan to quit amid widespread calls for him to do so because of his involvement in the City Hall racism scandal, protesters camping out at his Eagle Rock home vowed to remain there until leaves his post.

Around 10 people in several tents have staged a campout since Sunday, with more protesters expected to join them later Thursday.

“If we just lay down and accept it, and say, ‘He’s not leaving, so let’s all go home and forget about it’ — that looks terrible on us,” Michael Williams, a protester with Black Lives Matter Los Angeles, said.

Police told the protesters that the tents needed to be at least 300 feet from de León’s home, so the set-up is actually in front of other residents’ houses. But the protesters saidThursday morning, Oct. 20, that de León’s neighbors have been supportive of the campout, providing food and water — and even allowing them to use showers.

“The neighborhood is here,” Williams said. “They’re more willing to have us out here sleeping on their lawns than for him to be on the council. That says a lot, that people are willing to have something like this take place — and help support it — than have this man stay on the council.”

On Thursday morning, the group had more food and drinks than it could fit on two medium-sized folding tables. There were boxes full of lunch, two Starbucks containers, stacks of Krispy Kreme doughnuts and early Halloween candy. A water cooler had a paper sign taped to it that read: “Text me when it’s low and I’ll fill you up again!” along with a name and phone number.

“We’re creating community here,” said Baba Akili, another member of Black Lives Mater Los Angeles. “We’re exemplifying the kind of community and the kind of city that we want to see.”

De León has faced a flurry of calls for his resignation, ranging from President Joe Biden to nearly all of his council colleagues — including Lakers legend Earvin “Magic” Johnson.

“Let the city heal and move forward,” Johnson tweeted, in all caps, Thursday morning. “The people of Los Angeles voted you in the position, and now they are calling for you to resign.”

You have been stripped of your assignments and aren’t allowed to attend meetings, LET THE CITY HEAL AND MOVE FORWARD! The people of Los Angeles voted you in the position, and now they are calling for you to resign.

— Earvin Magic Johnson (@MagicJohnson) October 20, 2022

But De León, in interviews with Univision, in Spanish, and CBS2, in English, on Wednesday, said he will not resign.

“I’ve always been up against many, many challenges,” de León told CBS2. “And obviously, this is the biggest one I’ve ever been confronted with in my life.”

The councilman said the city needs to heal, and that he “wants to be part of that.”

But Akili said that isn’t possible because de León is the problem.

“We are in outrage now not because he just happened to wake up on the wrong side of the bed one day,” Akili said. “He made some offensive statements. He participated in creating public policy that’s hurtful. And so he is the problem. He can’t help heal from that.”

The October 2021 conversation between de León and fellow councilmembers Nury Martinez and Gil Cedillo, along with Ron Herrera, president of the L.A. County Federation of Labor, included racist comments and discussions over favorable redistricting — and led to Martinez resigning her council presidency and then her council seat last week.

“I’m not going to mince words,” de León told CBS2. “I’m not going to deflect blame. I’m not going to defend the defenseless.”

De León and Cedillo have been under mounting pressure to resign since the release of the tape Oct. 9.

On Thursday, new City Council President Paul Krekorian told KNX radio that if de León attempts to attend a council meeting, “many, if not all, members of the council will leave the meeting, and we will not be able to operate.”

De León said he called Councilman Mike Bonin — whose 2-year-old Black son was the target of a racial slur by Martinez — to apologize and left a voice mail. He said he planned to apologize at last Tuesday’s council meeting, but that it was difficult because protesters forced him to leave the meeting.

Neither he nor Cedillo have attended a meeting since.

But Bonin said following de León’s interviews Wednesday that de León “cannot be a part of the healing as long as he refuses to resign.” In a statement, Bonin called de León’s comments “gaslighting of the highest order.”

“He says he should have ‘intervened,’ as if he were a mere bystander to a racist conversation in which he played a central and ignominious role,” Bonin continued.

“No matter what he says today,” Bonin added, de León is “unfit for office in this city.”

De León, however, said to Univision that while he is embarrassed for his role in the scandal, he wants to help th ecity move forward.

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“I will not resign because there’s a lot of work ahead,” he said. “There’s a lot of work that we have to face. The crisis that is happening in the district, the infections, the unemployment, the threat to eviction, the humanitarian crisis of the homeless.”

Alberto Retana, president and CEO of Community Coalition — a South Los Angeles nonprofit organization that has worked to build relationships between Black and Latino groups — told CNS that de León’s refusal to resign was both arrogant and a slap in the face.

De León told CBS2 that he’s begun reaching out to various leaders and organizations. But Retana said he doesn’t anticipate hearing from the councilman.

“I don’t anticipate him reaching out to us at all,” Retana said. “Quite frankly, what I think we’re all looking for to make amends is not a call. It’s a resignation.”

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