Los Angeles City Atty. Mike Feuer has filed more than a dozen misdemeanor charges against two protesters who disrupted an Aug. 9 meetings of the City Council.
Ricci Sergienko, 31, was charged with committing battery on a police officer, attempting to rescue a prisoner and four counts of resisting arrest or delaying or obstructing a police officer, according to the city attorney’s office.
A 46-year-old audience member was charged with trespassing, vandalism, disturbing a public meeting and five counts of resisting arrest or delaying or obstructing a police officer, Feuer’s office said. An attorney with the National Lawyers Guild of Los Angeles identified that the defendant as Ms. Italy.
Feuer, in a statement on the case, said the right to peaceful protest is a “long-cherished American freedom.”
“But when protest stops being peaceful, and threatens our most basic democratic systems, we must act,” he said.
Colleen Flynn, who represents Sergienko, said her client was at the council meeting to participate peacefully — and was documenting what was happening with his cell phone camera at the time he was detained.
“From the videos and the evidence that we have seen, there is nothing to substantiate any of these charges,” she said.
National Lawyers Guild of Los Angeles attorney Rebecca Brown, speaking on behalf of Ms. Italy, called the charges “absolutely ridiculous” and characterized Feuer’s case as politically motivated. The city has declined to prosecute many other alleged minor violations of the law, she said.
Feuer’s case focuses on a council meeting where scores of people showed up to oppose an ordinance prohibiting homeless encampments from going up within 500 feet of schools and day-care centers.
During her public testimony, Ms. Italy climbed over a bench and entered the council floor to confront then-council President Nury Martinez. Several officers then attempted to remove her from the floor, according to video of the meeting reviewed by The Times.
Sergienko moved from the lectern to the side of the chamber where police were grappling with Ms. Italy.
Brown, the guild lawyer, said police tased Ms. Italy, causing her to fall to the floor.
While audience members shouted at police, officers grabbed Sergienko. During the skirmish, both Sergienko and an officer fell to the ground, according to the video.
Martinez called a recess, leaving dozens of activists in the room chanting, “We won’t go.” The Los Angeles Police Department eventually declared an unlawful assembly and the protesters exited the chamber.
On Aug. 29, LA County District. Atty. George Gascón declined to file charges, referring the matter to Feuer’s office.
Sergienko is a co-founder of the People’s City Council, which has taken part in numerous demonstrations on such issues as police misconduct and the city’s responses to homelessness.
The group participated in a protest Friday outside the San Fernando Valley home of council President Paul Krekorian, arguing that the council should not conduct any meetings until two of its members — Gil Cedillo and Kevin de León — resign over their involvement in a secretly recorded conversation in which racist and derogatory language was used.
An LAPD spokesman said no one was arrested during that protest.
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.