A Compton City Council meeting disintegrated into confusion Tuesday night when opponents and supporters of three indicted council members began shoving and tussling in the audience.
"Please exit the building. There is a lack of quorum," a chuckling Mayor Eric Perrodin said after the three accused council members -- his political opponents -- left through a rear door while audience members shouted and scuffled. Sheriff's deputies quickly cleared the room, only to find the disturbance continuing outside.
"Crooks!" screamed some of the ejected people as they faced off in a courtyard. "Terrorists!" shouted back others.
No one was injured or arrested, said Sheriff's Capt. Cecil Rhambo. He added that although he had expected a confrontation at the meeting, he had never seen a political squabble quite like that.
The three council members, along with former Mayor Omar Bradley and current City Manager John D. Johnson II, were arrested Monday on charges of misusing public funds.
Sources familiar with the investigation said the five are accused of charging personal expenses on city credit cards. They all were released on bail Monday night.
Tuesday's ruckus erupted near the end of a meeting that was routine but for the fact that a majority of the panel was under indictment. After working through an agenda filled with the business of city government, Perrodin announced that it was time for public comment -- the portion of the meeting that had drawn an overflow crowd of about 200.
As a surge of people made for the microphone set up for public comment, two of them -- one a supporter of indicted Councilwoman Delores Zurita and the other a union representative and friend of the mayor -- began to scuffle. The mayor's friend, Eric Kizziee, said the shoving match began after the other man, who was not identified, called him derogatory names.
Others joined the brief scuffle, pushing and yelling. Officers moved them outside, where the shoving and name-calling continued.
"This is how they operate, by intimidation," Perrodin said afterward. "It's unfortunate that it ended that way, but maybe more people need to see this to wake up and see all the corruption and thuggery. And maybe the people of Compton will be less apathetic."
Supporters of the five indicted officials blamed Perrodin for the disruption. "It was obviously orchestrated by Mr. Perrodin, and I think it's actually kind of embarrassing," said Anthony Willoughby, Zurita's attorney.
The other two indicted council members are Amen Rahh and Yvonne Arceneaux.