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Tempers flare when speakers hurl insults at L.A. City Council

April 10, 2012 |  2:01 pm

Paul KoretzTempers flared at Los Angeles City Hall on Tuesday after 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 whom he said weren’t paying attention to the public speakers, Councilman Tom LaBonge, who was chairing the meeting, stopped him. LaBonge instructed Carreon to address his comments to the council chair, as per city rules.

Carreon responded angrily. “The city’s going to hell in a handbasket, and you’re going to sit up there and dictate,” he said. “Now I’m confused on where I’ve got to go, I’m upset, so I guess I’ll just salute you.”

Raising one hand in the air, he shouted: “Heil Hitler.”

Councilman Paul Koretz rose from his seat. “That’s a highly offensive thing,” said Koretz, who is Jewish. “I’m very tempted to go over there and clock 'em.”

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, he offered to take his problem with Koretz outside. Councilman Richard Alarcon rose to defend Koretz.

"Mr. Koretz did not in any way, shape or form threaten Mr. Carreon. What he said is he 'felt' like doing that," Alarcon said. "He’s entitled to his emotions under the civil liberties of this country.”

That wasn’t the only disruption Tuesday. At another point during the meeting, 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's spring break.  Council President Herb Wesson said that wasn’t necessary. "I think I can bring control back to this meeting," he said.

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-- Aida Ahmad and Kate Linthicum at Los Angeles City Hall

Photo: Paul Koretz. Credit: Betsy Annas

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