The leadership of the nation’s second most populous city was in a state of uncertainty on Wednesday as the Los Angeles City Council tried to reconvene amid an uproar over a recording in which one senior city officials used racist language. The meeting ended before officials could even begin to run city business as rowdy protesters drowned out officials.
What’s happening today: The LA City Council was set to meet for the second time since leaked audio revealed council speaker Nury Martinez made racist remarks and disparaged co-workers in a filing obtained by the Los Angeles Times. The demonstrators had already begun to gather in front of the town hall.
What’s in the audio: In the recording obtained by The Times, Martinez could be heard making racist statements about the child of a white council member, saying her colleague, Mike Bonin, “treated his young black son like he was an accomplice” and describing the co-worker’s son in Spanish as “like an ape.
Who resigned? Martinez announced Tuesday that she was taking “leave of absence,” The Times reported. Martinez and Ron Herrera, president of the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, both resigned as presidents on Monday, according to the Times. The other two board members heard on appeal, Gil Cedillo and Kevin de León, did not resign.
Complications: In addition to the three council members heard on the leaked audio, three current or former council members have been indicted or pleaded guilty to corruption charges. It was unclear whether the city council would be able to muster the required 10 members – out of a total of 15 – to conduct business on Wednesday.
City council meeting ends after hour of protest
For more than an hour, protesters stood on wooden benches inside the marble chambers of City Hall, chanting, booing and delaying Wednesday’s meeting until all officials in audio recording resign. At 11:15 a.m. PDT — more than an hour after the 10 a.m. meeting had started — the board adjourned and ended the meeting before it even started.
Protesters stomped, clapped and sang in celebration as the lights in the chamber dimmed and officials walked out of the room. Some wore Black Lives Matter clothing, and others wore “I stand with Black people,” a reference to Martinez’s comments in the leaked recording. Many held up signs reading phrases like “RACISTS QUIT”.
Board member Mitch O’Farrell, who is serving as chairman after Martinez resigned, attempted to start the meeting several times, at one point trying to start with public comments and another time with remarks. of council member Mike Bonin, whose family was the target of the inflammatory remarks. But each time, the demonstrators drowned him.
Later, O’Farrell said the meeting ended because they no longer had quorum on the board, meaning two-thirds, or 10 of the 15 board members, were no longer present.
The crowd chanted “Sin renuncia, no hay justia” – “Without resignation there is no justice”.
Acting board chairman says officials have ‘no choice’ but to step down
After Wednesday’s meeting, O’Farrell said the three council members in the leaked recording needed to step down to allow the city to heal and move on from this moment.
“I hope Nury Martinez, Gil Cedillo and Kevin de Leon will understand that there is no choice for them but to resign,” O’Farrell told reporters Wednesday afternoon.
He told reporters he spoke with each of the board members one-on-one and told them to resign. The fact that they haven’t done so yet is “very frustrating,” the acting city council president said.
“It’s frustrating personally and professionally, but it’s frustrating for the whole city because it’s holding us back. It’s holding us back from moving forward,” O’Farrell said.
Acknowledging the national attention on the local government scandal, O’Farrell spoke up for Los Angeles’ diversity and culture.
“There is no perfect solution to this. There are no winners in all that is happening right now. There are only victims,” he said. “But the heart and soul of Los Angeles need not fall victim to it.”
Biden joins calls for council members to resign
The three council members heard on the tape have faced sustained calls for their complete resignation from the council from local politicians, mayoral candidates, labor groups and even President Joe Biden.
White House press secretary Jean-Pierre said Biden called on all leaders he heard during the call to step down.
“The president is happy to see that one of the participants in this conversation has resigned,” Jean-Pierre said. “He thinks they should all resign. The language used in this conversation was unacceptable and appalling.”
Other notable names who have called for the resignation: Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, the California Democratic Party, several unions, current mayoral candidates. Senator Dianne Feinstein, the longest-serving U.S. senator from California, also joined the chorus on Wednesday.
What happens if the members of the municipal council do not resign?
While everyone from local residents to Biden is calling on all explicit audio executives to resign, there’s not much we can do if they don’t step down themselves.
Los Angeles has no mechanism to suspend or remove members of its 15-member city council for such actions, the Los Angeles Times reported. There is a provision that allows members to be suspended if they have been charged with a crime and are awaiting trial, the city charter says.
Another option could be member recall, a popular mechanism in California due to laws that make it relatively easy to launch such efforts. But at least one of the city council members, Cedillo, has a term that ends in December.
Meanwhile, concerns have arisen over whether the council can bring together the required 10 members – out of a total of 15 – to conduct business on Wednesday if the two affected council members resign.
Contributor: Associated Press; Christal Hayes, USA TODAY