The Northeast Los Angeles neighborhood councils of Eagle Rock, Highland Park and Glassell Park voted this week to send letters demanding the resignations of their city council representatives, Councilmembers Gil Cedillo (Council District 1) and Kevin de León (CD 14).
The letters add the voices of the councilmembers’ NELA constituents to the growing chorus of Angelenos and political leaders calling on the two to resign. The furor began Oct. 9, when the LA Times made public a leaked audio recording of racist comments and other slurs in a meeting in 2021 among Cedillo, De León, then City Council President Nury Martinez and former top labor official Ron Herrera. Martinez and Herrera resigned last week.
De León told Noticiera Univision and KCAL-Channel 9 on Oct. 19 that he will not resign. In Cedillo’s most recent public comment on the scandal, issued last week, his spokesperson said that Cedillo “is at a place of reflection.”
At the neighborhood council meetings in NELA this week, several residents said that they had lost faith and trust in the ability of Cedillo and De León to represent them, using words including “racist,” “bigoted,” “reprehensible,” “inexcusable” and “infuriating,” to describe the discussion heard on the recording.
Many residents also said that without accountability — that is, resignations — there can be no healing of the hurt caused by the remarks or the rifts they have exposed in communities and local government. Clara Solis is a member of the Highland Park neighborhood council who said she had supported De León.
“Kevin De León and Gil Cedillo must resign… if they love this community, they must stand down… so that it can heal,” Solis said. “This isn’t who we want to be, and we need them to resign so that we can be the city we want our city to be.”
Some of the participants at the neighborhood council meetings scolded Cedillo and De León for their refusal thus far to resign. By staying in office, the councilmembers were “holding us back from our future,” one caller in Eagle Rock said. Another said that Cedillo and De León were holding local government “hostage,” a reference to the difficulty in getting anything done as long as Cedillo and De León remain on the City Council. The longer they stay, said the caller, the longer it will take to “move on and clean up LA.”
In Highland Park, there was concern over the loss of representation, but it was not raised to argue against resignations. Rather, it was expressed in terms of being prepared for the fallout of the scandal, especially in the communities represented by De León, who has two years left in his term. (Cedillo lost his bid for reelection this year and is scheduled to be replaced in December by councilmember-elect Eunisses Hernandez.) If De León resigns, his seat will be vacant pending the steps that need to be taken to elect someone new. If he stays in office, he will be ineffective because he has been stripped of his committee assignments.
“I’m very nervous about having no representation for the remaining time,” said Emily Stokes, the vice-president of the Highland Park neighborhood council who supported the demand for resignations. “My trepidation is that we’re just going to lose that and I’m afraid we will.”
Participants in the neighborhood council meetings also spoke about what they believed should be learned from the scandal. Jesse Saucedo, an Eagle Rock resident and past president of the Eagle Rock neighborhood council said that the recording “is a reminder to all of us” to call out racism and bigotry wherever and whenever we hear it — at home, in families, at school and in workplaces.
On the neighborhood councils for Eagle Rock and Glassell Park, the votes to send the letters were unanimous. In Highland Park, one neighborhood councilmember, Steve Crouch, was opposed, saying that demands for resignation are a form of canceling and that Cedillo and De León should be forgiven rather than their careers destroyed.
Black Lives Matter activists of the Eagle Rock area have since established a 24-hour encampment outside De León’s house on Fair Park and La Roda in order to pressure his resignation. According to organizer Michael Williams, people have come from across Los Angeles to provide supplies and join in the protests. He said he would like to encourage more community members to join and said they will not leave until De León resigns.
“Any time you can make it from 6 o’clock in the morning to 1 o’clock at night, we are here,” Williams said. “Since Saturday I’ve been here off and on… any free time I’ve been here.”
Annaya Greenidge said the cause was very important to her as a young person who was interested in activism and said she also planned to be out until De León resigns.
“I feel very strongly about that because I can’t understand and I can’t wrap my head around how people can be so hateful towards a culture that they don’t understand,” Greenidge said.
Greenidge said she saw her protest as participating in a kind of civil rights and anti-racist activism.
“I’m trying to encourage other people in my community to also be active,” Greenidge said. “This is [important] to me because I feel that as a youth I need to really get the word out about how these racist ideas come to people’s minds.”
A previous version of this article was previously published in the Boulevard Sentinel as part of the NELA Neighborhood Reporting Partnership program, a collaboration of the Boulevard Sentinel newspaper and The Occidental.
Contact Kanaya Adams at firstname.lastname@example.org