LA councilman embroiled in racist tape scandal being investigated for fighting activist at holiday event

The politician claims he was forced to defend himself.

December 11, 2022, 4:51 PM

A Los Angeles City Councilman who has refused to resign over a leaked audio recording of him participating in a meeting in which racist comments were made about his colleagues, is now being investigated by police after a video surfaced allegedly showing him getting into a fight with a community activist at a holiday event, authorities said.

Councilmember Kevin de León was video recorded Friday night getting into a physical confrontation in front of parents and children at a toy giveaway and Christmas tree lighting event in the Lincoln Heights neighborhood of Los Angeles to which police were called to quell the violence, according to a statement issued by the Los Angeles Police Department on Sunday.

A video obtained by ABC Los Angeles station KABC showed de León, wearing a red and white Santa Claus hat, being confronted by a group of activists calling him a racist and apparently attempting to block his path as he tried to leave the event. In the footage, which has been posted on social media, one of the activists, identified as Jason Reedy, is seen standing nose-to-nose with de León before the councilman shoved him onto a table and grabbed his jacket, pushing him out of the camera's view.

PHOTO: Signs calling for the resignation of L.A. City Council member Kevin de Leon are posted near de Leon's home in the wake of a leaked audio recording, Oct. 18, 2022 in Los Angeles.
Signs calling for the resignation of L.A. City Council member Kevin de Leon are posted near de Leon's home in the wake of a leaked audio recording, Oct. 18, 2022 in Los Angeles.
Mario Tama/Getty Images

After the incident, de León claimed he was attempting to defend himself after saying Reedy had headbutted him. De León filed a battery complaint against Reedy, who countered by filing his own battery complaint against de León, according to the LAPD.

The LAPD said the incident is under investigation and no one was taken into custody.

"Kevin de León is a disgrace. Video footage clearly shows him and his supporters initiating this assault while Mr. Reedy stands with his hands up," Reedy's lawyer said in a statement. "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."

De León released a statement alleging Reedy is part of "a group of so-called 'activists'" that has been harassing him and his staff for more than a year.

He claimed the group "cornered and physically assaulted me, a staff member, and a volunteer during a holiday event on Friday evening."

He said Reedy and other members of the group started shouting obscenities and disrupting the holiday event, prompting him to attempt to exit the event to "draw the disrupters away from the attending families and children," but the activists blocked all the exit doors.

"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," de León alleged. "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."

Earlier Friday, chaos ensued at a city council meeting when de León showed up for the first time since becoming embroiled in the scandal over the closed-door meeting in October 2021 he attended with then-City Council President Nury Martinez and a third Latino member of the city council, Gil Cedillo. In the recording of the meeting, leaked earlier this year, Martinez allegedly made racist comments about her colleagues and the Black son of white councilmember Mike Bonin while discussing redistricting to hold onto their power.

PHOTO: FILE - LA City Councilmember Kevin De Leon, speaks at an event in Los Angeles, April 14, 2018.
Los Angeles City Councilmember Kevin De Leon speaks at an event in Los Angeles, April 14, 2018 while then serving as a Democratic state senator.Enable Ginger Cannot connect to Ginger Check your internet connection or reload the browserDisable in this text fieldRephraseRephrase current sentenceEdit in Ginger×
NurPhoto via Getty Images, FILE

During Friday's council meeting, community members in attendance booed de León's presence and Bonin abruptly stood up and stormed out of the meeting. The uproar caused a recess to be called and de León did not return to the meeting.

De León said he attempted to attend the meeting to represent his constituents.

"I remained out of the room after the outburst by agitators to give the council president the opportunity to regain control of the meeting and allow public comment to continue since so many of those present were my constituents," de León said. "Unfortunately, neither of those things happened."

But de León's departure did not curtail the raucous meeting. Instead, outgoing City Councilmember Paul Koretz used his farewell speech to take a parting shot at protesters, saying they "have done their best to make it difficult for us to do our work in the last 2½ years."

"In their own words: I yield the rest of my time. F*** you," Koretz said.

De León is also purportedly heard making racially charged comments on the tape recording about Bonin's son and calls for him and Cedillo to resign have grown louder in recent weeks. Martinez resigned from the city council in October and apologized for her comments.

De León and Cedillo have refused to step down from the council despite calls from California Gov. Gavin Newsom and President Joe Biden for them to do so.

On Oct. 26, the city council voted 12-0 to publicly reprimand the three councilmembers.