Tempers flared at Los Angeles City Hall on Tuesday when a councilman said he was tempted to “clock” a speaker who called out “Heil Hitler” during a public comment period.
The spat began when political gadfly Michael Carreon stood up during the City Council meeting to talk about problems in the 14th Council District, where he lives.
When Carreon turned his attention to several council members who he said weren’t paying attention, Councilman Tom LaBonge, who was chairing the meeting, stopped him. LaBonge instructed Carreon not to address his comments to specific members, as per city rules.
“The city’s going to hell in a handbasket, and you’re going to sit up there and dictate,” he said. “I’m upset, so I guess I’ll just salute you.” Raising one hand in the air in a Nazi salute, he shouted: “Heil Hitler.”
Councilman Paul Koretz stood up from his seat. “That’s a highly offensive thing,” said Koretz, who is Jewish. “I’m very tempted to go over there and clock ‘im.”
Even after the city attorney present at the meeting said that Carreon’s comments weren’t grounds for eviction, the issue continued to percolate.
When Carreon again came to the speaker’s podium for public comment a few minutes later, he offered to take his problem with Koretz outside. Councilman Richard Alarcon came to the defense of Koretz.
“Mr. Koretz did not in any way, shape or form threaten Mr. Carreon,” Alarcon said. “What he said is he ‘felt’ like doing that. He’s entitled to his emotions under the civil liberties of this country.”
Alarcon said the public and council members should read the Bill of Rights to ensure there are no violations of free speech rights. “We can do better,” he said. “You can do better.”
That wasn’t the only commotion Tuesday. At another point, Matt Dowd, a frequent City Hall critic, used foul language during his public comment.
Councilman Mitchell Englander asked that in light of the day’s disruptions, the council direct the television channel that broadcasts the meetings to stop airing the proceedings. He explained that students may be tuned in to the channel because it is spring break.
Council President Herb Wesson said that wasn’t necessary. “I think I can bring control back to this meeting,” he said. Not long after, the meeting was adjourned.