LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- The Los Angeles City Council elected Councilman Paul Krekorian as its new leader Tuesday to replace a president who was forced to resign amid a burgeoning scandal over racist remarks.
Krekorian is replacing former Council President Nury Martinez, who resigned her leadership post and her council seat after she was caught on a leaked recording making racist comments and discussing manipulations of the city redistricting process.
Krekorian is now tasked with leading the council on a series of political reforms, while dealing with increasingly loud calls for the two other members involved in the controversy, Gil Cedillo and Kevin de León, to also step down.
Legally the council cannot force members from office, short of serious criminal accusations, but most other members of the council have said resignations by the two is the only way for the city to heal and move forward.
Krekorian said he will aim to reduce the power of the position.
"The Council Presidency is a position of collaboration, not command," Krekorian said in a statement. "I will see that the power of the Council Presidency is reduced, not enlarged. The era of unilateral decision making and consolidating power ends today."
And he repeated calls for Cedillo and de Leon to follow Martinez and resign from office.
"Three elected members of this Council forfeited the public's trust. One has already resigned, the greatest service to the city that the others can now perform is to resign their offices so that we can begin the process of healing."
Mayor Eric Garcetti praised the selection of Krekorian, whose district is in the San Fernando Valley.
"Paul is a committed and conscientious leader who can bring a smart, collaborative, and effective approach to a painful moment when Angelenos deserve steady leadership on the City Council," Garcetti said. "I am confident that he'll assemble a leadership team of bridge builders, and I'll work closely with the Council to help heal the wounds caused by the hateful words of a few."
Protesters gathered outside City Hall on Tuesday - although the council itself was meeting online - to call for Cedillo and de León to step down.
At one point, protesters tried to force their way into the building, which was closed to the public.
Police officers wearing riot helmets pushed them back.
It was not immediately clear why the protesters wanted to enter the building, since the meeting was taking place online. Only Councilman Mitch O'Farrell, who was serving as acting president at the start of the meeting, was inside council chambers, while nine other members were meeting online.
They may have hoped to shut the meeting down until Cedillo and de León resign. Some protesters were heard chanting "No resignations, no meeting."
Some protesters opposed the selection of Krekorian.
"It's a slap in the face given what has just happened with the former City Council leadership, that they're putting someone in place that's actually worse than Nury Martinez," said Black Lives Matter leader Melina Abdullah.
Some protesters with Black Lives Matter remain camped out in de León's neighborhood, saying they will stay there until he steps down. De León has been publicly quiet since the scandal erupted and there was no sign of him at the home.
"Our prayer today is simply that these elected officials would do what is best for the city," said Pastor James Thomas, with the NAACP of the San Fernando Valley. "This issue has attempted to rip this city apart. But thank God for Black Lives Matter and those who organize for justice, who have been committed to making sure that all of the solidarity built, all the unity built over the past couple of years will not be destroyed as a result of elected officials."
Tuesday's meeting was expected to be a launching point for a series of reforms and power shifts. Councilman Mitch O'Farrell, who temporarily served as acting president when Martinez resigned, earlier this week stripped de León and Cedillo of most of their committee assignments and leadership posts.
Other reforms on the table include changing the redistricting process and expanding the size of the council to increase representation.