Relations between Los Angeles City Council members and council gadflies boiled over today after one commenter directed a Nazi salute at a member of the panel and threatened to fight with another.
The comments and other profane language during the meeting at one point prompted City Councilman Mitch Englander to propose taking the meeting off the public airwaves for the day.
During the council's general public comment period, Michael Carreon raised his arm in a Nazi salute to Councilman Tom LaBonge, who was running the meeting at the time.
"I'm upset. So I guess I'll just salute you. Heil Hitler," Carreon said.
He made the comment after LaBonge asked him not to direct his remarks at specific City Council members. Carreon regularly attends council meetings to verbally attack Councilman Jose Huizar about parking issues. Carreon today complained that specific council members were not paying attention to public speakers.
The Nazi salute drew a strong reaction from Councilman Paul Koretz.
"I'm very tempted to go over there and clock him, and that will disrupt the meeting," Koretz said. "Certainly it was designed to elicit that kind of response, and I'm not having any of it."
Deputy City Attorney Judy Reel said there was little recourse for the council.
"There's certainly no disagreement regarding the offensiveness of the conduct," Reel told Koretz. "If you're asking me if it's a basis to evict someone from the council chamber, I believe our advice is that it must in fact have caused an actual disruption."
Carreon later made a thinly veiled threat to fight Koretz.
"I'll make Mr. Koretz an offer. I'll wait for him outside. You don't have to disrupt the meeting," he said.
There were more fireworks later in the public comment section of the meeting when Matt Dowd, a Venice boardwalk busker, defended Carreon's actions as free speech and used the "F-word" during his comments.
That prompted Englander to suggest taking the council meeting off the air. He said there were likely youngsters on their spring break assigned by teachers to watch the council meetings on L.A. Cityview 35, the city's public television network.
Council President Herb Wesson said the regular back and forth between council members and gadflies at council meetings is getting out of control. Wesson declined to name specific options but said he is in talks with the City Attorney's Office about what can be done to improve the situation.
He said the gadflies are trying to get thrown out of the meetings as grounds for a lawsuit against the city for violating free speech rights.
"If they would spend this much time trying to find a job, other than get some free money, then their lives would be better," Wesson said.
Councilman Richard Alarcon urged both commenters and council members to read the Bill of Rights and tread lightly so as not to violate free speech rights.
"We can do better. You can do better," he told Carreon.