Amid noisy protest, the L.A. City Council — listening via earbuds — conducts its business

Protesters shouting for over two hours to disrupt the Los Angeles City Council meeting on Oct. 25.
Pete White, center, with the Los Angeles Community Action Network, and Kenia Alcocer, right in red, with the Los Angeles Tenants Union, join other protesters shouting for over two hours to disrupt the Los Angeles City Council meeting on Oct. 25.
(Carolyn Cole/Los Angeles Times)

The Los Angeles City Council held its first in-person meeting in nearly two weeks on Tuesday, plowing through its agenda and taking more than 90 minutes of phone-in public comment while demonstrators shouted, chanted and jeered from the audience.

The sounds of nonstop protest were deafening inside the council chamber, where audience members repeated their call for the ouster of Councilmen Gil Cedillo and Kevin de León, making it all but impossible to hear either the council members or the phone-in testimony.

But for those watching the meeting remotely, technology provided a much different experience: Viewers of YouTube could clearly hear both the call-in testimony and comments from council members, punctuated occasionally by the din in the background.

Council members put in earbuds so they could hear their colleagues and the call-in testimony inside the chamber. They scheduled an April 4 special election to replace former Councilmember Nury Martinez, who stepped down after The Times reported on racist and derogatory remarks she made during a secretly recorded conversation with Cedillo, De León and Ron Herrera, then the top official at the county Federation of Labor.


The embattled politician had asked for permission to skip L.A. City Council meetings in the wake of the scandal.

Oct. 24, 2022

The council also voted to appoint Councilmember Curren Price to serve in the body’s No 2. leadership position. When he stood up to address his colleagues, protesters broke into chants of “shame on you.” None of Price’s remarks could be heard in the chamber without earbuds and an audio or video feed.

Council President Paul Krekorian, in his first meeting presiding over the council, said afterward that he was determined to make sure he and his colleagues conducted the city’s business, while also allowing audience members to express their anger.

Councilmember Joe Buscaino listens to public comment on an earphone.
(Gary Coronado/Los Angeles Times)

“This is the nature of democracy. Sometimes it’s messy. Sometimes people get mad,” he told reporters afterward. “You have to try to strike that balance all the time.”

Artist, actress and activist Michelle Hope Walker, who went to Tuesday’s meeting in person, said she liked the fact that Krekorian has rejected De León’s request for excused absences. At the same time, she said the protests must continue.

“[De León] needs to resign, and all this needs to keep going ‘til he does — shutting down meetings, [appearing] outside his house, the marches, anything else,” she said.


Walker said she found De León to be “arrogant” during an hourlong interview, held right before the council’s meeting, with Tavis Smiley on KBLA Talk 1580 AM. “His apology tour is not going well,” she said, “because he sounds more racist than ever.”

During that interview, Smiley pressed De León on whether his constituents were being well-served by a councilman who has refused to resign but also has not shown up for meetings.

“I’m trying to allow some time to heal,” De León said. “I’m trying to allow some time to not be part of the chaos at this moment.”

A group of protesters chanted throughout the Los Angeles city council meeting
A group of protesters chanted throughout the Los Angeles city council meeting, calling for the resignations of Councilmen Kevin de Leon and Gil Cedillo.
(Carolyn Cole/Los Angeles Times)

Protesters were assembled outside the radio station during the interview, as Smiley pointed out, and also have been gathering near De León’s Eagle Rock home. During his interview, De León apologized for his comments in the conversation with Martinez and Cedillo, saying he did not display leadership when he failed to cut off racist remarks made by Martinez.

De León told Smiley he’d planned to endorse Rep. Karen Bass for mayor before the recording became public. He also said that Price was supposed to attend last year’s meeting with Martinez and Cedillo.

Price, in a statement, said De León was not telling the truth — and that he had not been invited to the “now infamous meting that brought great humiliation to City Hall.”

“Such a pathetic attempt to save his own hide is frankly disgusting,” said Price, who is planning to protest alongside Black Lives Matter at De Leon’s home Tuesday night.

Demonstrators hold signs denouncing Councilmember Kevin de León at Tuesday's City Council meeting. He did not attend.
Demonstrators hold signs denouncing Councilmember Kevin de León at Tuesday’s City Council meeting. He did not attend.
(Gary Coronado/Los Angeles Times)

At City Hall, the number of demonstrators gathered in front of the council was much smaller than the overflowing crowds seen two weeks ago. About three dozen people clapped, slapped benches and yelled “no resignations, no meetings” — one of many chants delivered over the council’s proceedings.

In the back of the chamber, television news crews did live shots and interviewed demonstrators. Once the meeting ended, protesters filed out of the room while chanting “We’ll be back.”

Disruptions have been a frequent occurrence in the council chamber, even before the leak scandal. However, Tuesday’s meeting appeared to be the first time the council moved forward with business even as shouting and chanting continued for the entirety of the meeting. In the past, they have sometimes taken recesses to try to regain control or assigned police to clear the chamber.

The council had spent the previous week meeting remotely, following a COVID-19 exposure in the chambers. Krekorian spokesperson Hugh Esten said Tuesday’s session was the first time the council held a meeting in a way that combined in-person testimony with phone-in public comment.