One arrested as chaos erupts at Los Angeles City Council meeting

A Los Angeles City Council meeting erupted into chaos on Tuesday, with a public speaker climbing onto a bench and onto the council floor to confront Council Speaker Nury Martinez, prompting police to pack the chamber.

Officers apprehended a second member of the public on the council floor moments later, while activists yelled at police and at least one member of the public sprayed water from a bottle at the officers. A bystander was arrested, police said.

Martinez abruptly suspended the meeting, leaving dozens of activists in the room chanting “Abolish 41.18!” — a reference to the city’s law prohibiting homeless encampments at libraries, freeway overpasses and other locations. Shortly after 11 a.m., an LAPD captain declared an unlawful assembly in the chamber, prompting dozens of protesters to pull out.

Los Angeles City Councilman Joe Buscaino speaks with police

Los Angeles City Councilman Joe Buscaino, second from right, speaks with police shortly after homeless advocates and protesters broke down proceedings in Los Angeles City Council chambers Angeles.

(Genaro Molina/Los Angeles Times)

“I’ve never seen anything like it – ever,” Councilman Joe Buscaino said after the room cleared.

The incident came a week after protesters broke up another meeting – also dealing with the anti-encampment law – by repeatedly chanting “shut it up” until council members take a one hour break.

Martinez said Tuesday’s episode brought City Hall closer to the kind of behavior that occurred in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 6, 2021, when protesters stormed the U.S. Capitol. At least five people died and more than 700 people were arrested in connection with the insurgency.

At approximately 11:45 a.m., the council reconvened.

“We cannot legislate in fear,” Martinez said after the meeting resumed. “I certainly won’t.”

Sabrina Johnson, co-founder of the activist group People’s City Council, said the comparisons to January 6 were “ridiculous”.

“I just want some help,” said Tanesha Haynes, who is homeless and joined defenders and protesters who shut down proceedings in the council chamber on Tuesday, crying.

(Genaro Molina/Los Angeles Times)

“It’s not like we’re storming the building. We go through security. We go through the proper channels,” Johnson said. “This is our only opportunity to give them feedback as they are not responding to phone calls and messages to their office.”

The skirmish on council ground erupted during the meeting’s public comment period, with a majority of speakers denouncing a proposal to ban encampment next to schools and childcare facilities. The council voted in favor of the measure last week, but since the count was not unanimous, the proposal required a second vote.

The meeting was tense from the start. Members of the public whistled and shouted profanities at council members as they entered the room. Martinez told audience members to “grow up”, prompting mockery from the crowd. When Councilor Curren Price attempted to conduct the Pledge of Allegiance, members of the public booed.

Halfway through the public comments, an audience member approached the lectern and addressed Martinez directly, peppering the comments with profanity. The spectator attempted to move a bench bolted to the floor, causing a loud creak, then climbed onto it and approached the council dais.

“I live in the f— streets,” shouted the onlooker, as three policemen tried to move the speaker to the exit. As officers attempted to detain the speaker, a second member of the public entered the council chamber. A line of police wearing riot helmets burst into the room.

LAPD officers stand guard after a homeless advocate tries to rush City Council members to City Hall.

LAPD officers stand guard after a homeless advocate tries to rush City Council members to City Hall.

(Genaro Molina/Los Angeles Times)

The second member of the public, Ricci Sergienko, was arrested on suspicion of resisting arrest and removing another person from lawful custody, police said in a news release on Tuesday evening. Police had also listed vandalism as a potential charge earlier in the day, although that was not included in the final press release.

Sergienko is another co-founder of the People’s City Council, which has been a vocal critic of the city’s policies on homelessness.

Police said earlier in the day that two members of the public were arrested, but later clarified that only Sergienko was arrested, while another person was briefly detained.

Officers originally intended to arrest the speaker who climbed onto the bench and approached council members, but Sergienko ‘broken the detention’, keeping the speaker away from the police, the captain said LAPD’s Elaine Morales.

The speaker who had been briefly detained later left the building, Morales said.

Sergienko could not immediately be reached for comment.

When the meeting resumed, the anti-encampment ordinance was approved by an 11-3 vote, with Mike Bonin, Marqueece Harris-Dawson and Nithya Raman opposed. The new restrictions will prohibit people from sitting, sleeping, lying or storing belongings within 500 feet of every public and private school, not just the few dozen selected by the council over the past year .

“It’s going to make the problem worse,” Bonin said. “It will disconnect people from services. It’s going to channel our time, money, and energy into moving people, not moving people inside.

Activist groups argue the ordinance would effectively criminalize poverty, making up to a fifth of the city’s sidewalks off-limits to the city’s most needy. Homeless service providers also objected, saying the new restrictions will make it more difficult to help people who are homeless.

Homeless advocates and protesters fill the hall before the Los Angeles City Council casts its final vote

Homeless advocates and protesters fill the room before the Los Angeles City Council finally votes on a law banning homeless encampments near schools and daycares.

(Genaro Molina/Los Angeles Times)

Superintendent of Schools Alberto Carvalho urged the board to approve the restrictions in May. Parents of children attending the LA Unified School District, many of whom are Spanish-speaking, also testified in support of the new restrictions, saying they viewed the encampment residents as a potential danger to their children.

“We now have parents driving two blocks to a parking lot to drop their kids off at school, or even driving a block just for their safety,” said Councilman Paul Koretz, a supporter new limits. “This is not a circumstance we should be in, and we need to take action.”

The crackdown comes as the city invests hundreds of millions of dollars in aid for homeless people in Los Angeles, including drop-in shelters, “tiny house” villages and new affordable housing projects.

On Thursday, a board committee will consider a plan to expand operations of three hotels used for the Roomkey project, which provides temporary housing for homeless residents. These hotels, which have a total of 780 rooms, were originally scheduled to close over the next few weeks.

Extending the deadline for closing the Roomkey project is expected to cost $28.3 million, according to a report on the proposal. The city has so far committed $245 million to the Roomkey project, according to the report.

Leave a Comment