Two people who disrupted an Aug. 9 meeting of the Los Angeles City Council to protest an ordinance banning homeless encampments within 500 feet of schools and daycare centers have been charged with a combined 13 misdemeanor counts, officials said Saturday.
Ricci Sergienko, 31, was charged by the Los Angeles City Attorney’s Office with battery on a police officer, attempting to rescue a prisoner and four counts of resisting arrest or delaying or obstructing a police officer.
A 46-year-old audience member at that day’s council meeting was charged with nine counts, including willfully and unlawfully disturbing and breaking up a lawful assembly and meeting, resisting arrest, obstructing a public officer, peace officer and an emergency medical technician, trespassing and defacing public property.
“The right to peaceful protest is a long-cherished American freedom,” City Attorney Mike Feuer said. “When protest stops being peaceful, and threatens our most basic democratic systems, we must act.”
During the public comment period that day, a woman attempted to climb over the barrier separating the council from members of the public. While police attempted to take the woman into custody, Sergienko tried to prevent officers from arresting her, police said.
The woman was not taken into custody, according to Capt. Elaine Morales of the Los Angeles Police Department, who added that she was pulled away from police by other protesters.
Three officers, including a sergeant, suffered minor injuries, Morales said.
Nury Martinez, who was council president at the time, called for a 20-minute recess. Police with riot gear circled the chamber while protesters chanted and made speeches until police issued a dispersal order. The council finished the meeting with only members of the media present.
“Jumping over a barrier and putting other peoples’ lives at risk, that cannot be the norm around here,” Martinez said. “We cannot legislate in fear. I certainly will not do that. But we cannot tolerate this kind of behavior and continue to disregard decorum here in our council chambers and our safety.”
Splatters of blood and fake $100 bills were visible on the left aisle of the chamber after the melee.
“We cannot accept that as a regular way to conduct ourselves,” Martinez said. “I think for those of us who have been with us a number of years, I’ve never witnessed anything like this.”
After the meeting, Councilman Kevin de León was examining the scene, telling a cameraman to make sure he got a close-up shot of the blood. He told City News Service that in his lifetime, he’s “never witnessed or experienced such behavior by a group of individuals who sought to inflict violent, physical harm” on Martinez.
“I wish that they would channel that energy to join with us to build more housing, to acquire more housing, to get our unhoused neighbors off the street sooner rather than later,” de León said. “They seem to focus on performative art.”
Martinez has since resigned from the council after she was caught making racial slurs on a leaked recording from October 2021, and de León is facing calls to do the same for his role in the conversation.
Sergienko is a co-founder of the left-wing group People’s City Council.
Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón declined to file charges against the protesters, and referred the matter to the City Attorney’s Office on Aug. 29.
Aggressive protests in the council chamber have been more evident of late. Use of profanity has become normalized during recent public comment periods, including by many who are upset over the council’s approach to issues of policing and the homeless crisis.
One week ago, demonstrators demanding the resignations of council members de León and Gil Cedillo over their role in the City Hall racism scandal caused several delays, and prompted the Oct. 14 council meeting to be canceled.