L.A. Sheriff Says ‘Paid Activists’ Are Behind Opposition To Cleaning Up Homeless Encampments


Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva on Monday lashed out at some homeless advocates he says are “paid activists” who are impeding his efforts to help transients living at Venice Beach obtain services and housing.

While he did not mention any names, Villanueva posted an image on Facebook showing Ricci Sergienko, a progressive organizer with the People’s City Council-L.A., shouting at the sheriff while disrupting his media interviews on the boardwalk last week

LinkedIn profile in Sergienko’s name indicates he has worked as an associate strategist with the Adriel Hampton Group since January 2020. At that time, Sergienko was also an organizer for Sunrise Movement LA, an environmental advocacy organization. He co-founded the People’s City Council two months later as the pandemic emerged.

The progressive digital strategy company’s website says it “helped defeat Trump with voter education and activation programs” and specializes in “content creation and distribution strategies.” At least two members identified as part of its “team” are also organizers with the People’s City Council, including Sarah Goldzweig, who handles “planning & design, content production,” and Astrid Cota, a graphic designer..In addition to the People’s City Council, Sergienko is also part of a progressive activist alliance tied to the company called the Really Online Lefty League, recognized for “his candidate bird-dogging videos and other direct actions” that “can be seen across the social web.”

He described Villanueva’s accusations as a “blatant disregard for the truth and bullying.”

People’s City Council includes other activist groups and is allied with Black Lives Matter. The coalition has condemned the sheriff’s incremental plan to clear the Venice Beach boardwalk of homeless encampments, accusing Villanueva of ordering “an armed displacement” while using “fascist rhetoric” to “intimidate and harass unhoused people.” Sergienko and other PCC organizers suggest Villanueva is a member of a “gang” of tattooed Latino sheriff’s deputies known as the “Banditos.”

“I’m disappointed that these paid activists interrupted our important job of getting services for the homeless to demand that I ‘take off my shirt’ to prove that I don’t have tattoos,” Villanueva posted on a Facebook page promoting his re-election campaign. “I was not educated to disrespect others this way and I would expect the same from others.”

“But this is the guy who put my home address online and I had to hurry home because my retired wife was home alone,” the post continued.

“Los Angeles County. (W)e can do better. We will.”

Spectrum News 1 reporter Kate Cagle, who has covered the rising tensions over homelessness in Venice extensively, describes Sergienko as an “anti-cop and antifascist activist.” She reported that Twitter suspended Sergienko’s account for sharing the sheriff’s home address and that he was detained at a previous Villanueva press conference in April.

Last week, the People’s City Council claimed victory after 91% of L.A. County Democratic Party delegates voted to approve a resolution calling for Villanueva’s resignation. Organizers said they “whipped votes” and “worked behind the scenes.”

During an Instagram Live broadcast, the Sheriff said that the group “is also known as the white millionaires’ people’s city council,” adding, “apparently the people they represent is a very exclusive group, very elite.”

Villanueva is up for re-election next year, and the People’s City Council and their allies have vowed to oust him from office.

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