De León maintains he will not resign

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Wave Wire Services

LOS ANGELES — City Councilman Kevin de León continued to insist he has no intention of resigning from the City Council during a radio interview Oct. 25.

During an hour-long interview — the longest interview he has conducted since the controversy over a year-old meeting surfaced earlier this month — de León reiterated that he does not plan to resign and attempted to apologize for his participation in the meeting. He called the Black community “the community that I’ve aggrieved, I’ve hurt the most” and said he felt a sense of embarrassment and shame.

The interview was conducted by Tavis Smiley on KBLA 1580. When Smiley asked how de León could claim that he isn’t resigning because his district needs a voice when he isn’t representing them at meetings, the councilman took a lengthy pause.

“I’m trying to allow some time to heal,” he said. “I’m trying to allow some time to not be part of the chaos at this moment. That’s what I’m asking for right now.”

Protesters continue to camp out at de León’s Eagle Rock home, vowing to remain there until the embattled councilman resigns.

Around 10 people in several tents have staged a campout since Oct. 16.

“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, told City News Service.

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’ homes. But the protesters told City News Service 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 Oct. 20, 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 donuts and early Halloween candy.

A water cooler had a paper signed 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.

Signs outside the tents included: “Camp out until de León is out” and “Just 25 Black people yelling,” a reference to one of the comments on the leaked recording dismissing Black voters that touched off the scandal.

“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.”

Evy, a 32-year Eagle Rock resident who only provided her first name, observed the campout Thursday as she was walking her dog. She lives down the street, and supports the protesters being in the neighborhood as long as they remain peaceful.

She said she doesn’t condone de León’s comments, and called it “sad” if the councilman resigns because “this will be the second time in a row that our councilman got booted out.”

De León’s predecessor, José Huizar, was suspended from the City Council after he was indicted on federal corruption charges in 2020. He has pleaded not guilty. De León was elected to replace Huizar later that year.

De León has 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 council members 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 later her council seat last week. Herrera also resigned from his post.

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

De León has sent a letter to new Council President Paul Krekorian asking to be excused from attending council meetings “in the coming weeks” so he can focus on the healing process.

De León told Krekorian he would be “spending the coming weeks and months personally asking for your forgiveness.”

But Krekorian did not appear to accept de León’s attempt to make amends. In a statement, Krekorian said “apologies will not be nearly enough to undo the damage that this city has suffered. The only way we can begin to heal as a city is for Mr. de León to take responsibility for his actions, accept the consequences, and step down.”

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 the Oct. 11 council meeting, but that it was difficult because protesters forced him to leave the meeting.

Neither he nor Cedillo have attended a meeting since.

Bonin said that de León “cannot be a part of the healing as long as he refuses to resign.”

In an interview with Univision Oct. 19, de León said “I will not resign because there’s a lot of work ahead. 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.”

He added that he felt “very bad and embarrassed for the hurt, for the wounds that exist today in our communities.

“I’m very sorry. I’m sorry and for that I ask for apologies from my people, to my community, for the pain that my hurtful words caused from that day a year ago.”

Sheila Bates, an organizer with Black Lives Matter’s Los Angeles chapter, told CBS2 that she was not surprised that de León is resisting the calls to resign because people in power tend to want to hold onto it.

“It shows his complete lack of humility,” Bates said. “And it shows the fact that he’s clearly not serving the city of Los Angeles. He’s serving his own interests. Because if he was serving Los Angeles, he would listen to the city of Los Angeles and the fact that they told him to step down.”

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 — said 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.”

Community organizer Eunisses Hernandez, who beat Cedillo in the June primary and is set to join the council in December, responded to the news of de León’s refusal to resign with a #recall hashtag on Twitter.

“There is a lot do work to be done, but you do not have the credibility to move it forward,” Hernandez said on Twitter. “Your legacy will be your failure to take accountability for your harm.”

 

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