Los Angeles City Council meets for the first time following leaked audio of racist comments from Nury Martinez, Kevin de León


LOS ANGELES– The first Los Angeles City Council meeting since council members Nury Martinez and Kevin de León were heard in leaked audio making racist comments was topped by chants from a loud crowd demanding their resignations.

Tuesday’s meeting started late as council members struggled to talk to attendees in the packed council chamber as they chanted and booed.

Councilman Mike Bonin, whose black son was the target of racist comments, spoke at the meeting.

“You have to step down first, then ask for forgiveness,” Bonin said of the racist comments from fellow board members.

Council members León and Gil Cedillo, who were present when the racist remarks were made, were both present in the chambers for a short time during Tuesday’s meeting. Martinez was not.

Continuing his emotional remarks to the crowd, Bonin said, “My husband and I are both raw and angry and heartbroken and sick for our family and for Los Angeles…Officials are supposed to call us to our selves on higher. These people stabbed and shot us and cut the spirit of LA.”

Although Martinez resigned as council president on Monday and announced on Tuesday that she would be taking a leave of absence, she still retains her seat on the city council. In the fallout from the leaked conversation, calls intensified for Martinez and two other board members, de León and Gil Cedillo, to step down from their seats altogether. All three have since apologized.

Council member Monica Rodriguez had said she planned to present a motion at Tuesday’s 10 a.m. meeting calling for the election of a new council chair. Councilor Mitch O’Farrell was elevated to interim chairman of the council.

Councilman Mike Bonin’s son, who is black, was the target of racist comments.

“Today I’m even angrier than yesterday. I’m shaking with anger. It’s all that’s ugly and broken in politics, and they all need to step down,” Bonin said in an interview with Tavis Smiley on Monday. .

Civil and religious leaders in Los Angeles, including the Reverend John Cager, say the racist remarks heard during the October 2021 conversation were extremely painful to hear. At a press conference on Monday, these groups said the council members were seen as allies and friends.

Although all three have since apologized, many say it’s not enough and are calling for change.

The leaked audio was recorded behind closed doors as the board redrew the boundaries of the council’s districts – something USC’s Dr. Manuel Pastor struggled to hear because it went beyond just discussing needs Latinos in the community.

It was a conversation, he said, about the diminishing political power of black people in the city.

“Redistricting is a difficult process because it tends to be zero-sum in its policy,” said Pastor, of the USC Equity Research Institute. “To see decades of work end up being trashed in a conversation and the solidarity put at risk in that conversation is devastating.”

Gil Cedillo’s term on city council will end in December after losing his primary earlier this year. Martinez and de León are not re-eligible until 2024.

LA voters have the option to initiate a recall, but that process could take months. Council members have not been indicted, so the council as a whole cannot remove them.

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