Leaked audio revealed racist remarks during a conversation between Los Angeles City council members Nury Martinez, Kevin de Leon, Gil Cedillo, and Los Angeles County Federation of Labor President Ron Herrera.
The leaked audio was posted and later deleted, to the content aggregation website, Reddit, with the city officials making several off-color remarks while discussing topics centered around city redistricting, possible reactions to councilman Mark Ridley-Thomas’ bribery accusations and who would replace him on the council.
Since the audio hit news outlets and social media, there have been reactions abound from fellow council members calling for resignations, activist organizations including Black Lives Matter-LA, as well as several local and state leaders.
Among the first to speak out was Councilmember Mike Bonin, who was mentioned more than one time in the audio, with Councilmember Martinez calling him “a little bitch,” adding that Bonin “thinks he’s Black,” as well as insinuating harm to his Black son and calling him a monkey in Spanish.
Bonin responded by saying:
“We are appalled, angry and absolutely disgusted that Nury Martinez attacked our son with horrific racist slurs, and talked about her desire to physically harm him. It’s vile, abhorrent, and utterly disgraceful. The City Council needs to remove her as Council President immediately, and she needs to resign from office. Any parent reading her comments will know she is unfit for public office.
“We love our son, a beautiful, joyful child, and our family is hurting today. No child should ever be subjected to such racist, mean and dehumanizing comments, especially from a public official. It is painful to know he will someday read these comments. We are equally angry and disgusted by the ugly racist comments about our son from Kevin de Leon and Ron Herrera, who should also resign their posts, and by the tacit acceptance of those remarks from Gil Cedillo. It hurts that one of our son’s earliest encounters with overt racism comes from some of the most powerful public officials in Los Angeles.
“As parents of a Black child, we condemn the entirety of the recorded conversation, which displayed a repeated and vulgar anti-Black sentiment, and a coordinated effort to weaken Black political representation in Los Angeles. The conversation revealed several layers of contempt for the people of Los Angeles, and a cynical, ugly desire to divide the City rather than serve it.”
George Gacson was a point of conversation in the leaked audio, with council member Martinez being heard saying, “Fuck that guy. He’s with the blacks.”
Gascon responded to the audio by saying:
“I am saddened & disappointed by the racist comments made in the conversation between various LA City Councilmembers. I share the outrage of Councilmember Bonin as well as all members of the African American community. Anti-Blackness has no place in Los Angeles.”
Councilmember Nithya Raman, whose district was mentioned in the audio, not only called for resignations, but said she would vote for their removal from the council.
“Racist, homophobic, and deeply cruel statements like these are disqualifying for elected office in LA. The people who made them should resign. If they don’t, I’ll vote to remove them from Council leadership at the first opportunity.
“Sending all my love to Mike and his family.”
Councilmember Mitch O”Farrell also suggested all three councilmembers in the leaked audio should resign. O’Farrell also said he was saddened by the way indigenous Oaxacan’s were referred to by the members in the recording, as Councilmember Cedillo made fun of their smaller statures and Councilmember Martinez called them “feos” or ugly.
“I don’t see any way past this because if we have any obstacles that are going to get in the way of healing from a group of elected officials that engaged in racism against an African American child, that engaged in horrific things said about indigenous peoples from Oaxaca, that alluded to some of the old tropes against the LGBTQ community.
“I don’t see how that presence continuing in city leadership is going to allow the city to move forward to heal to move past this, to reconcile. That presence will continue to be an obstacle if it is still there in the halls of power at Los Angeles city Hall.
“What we do when no one is looking is the definition of integrity and this is a violation of that meaning, violation of the trust we’ve all given our colleagues and it’s just a really sad, devastating day for Los Angeles.
The councilmembers discussed possible backlash from the Black community after Councilman Mark Ridley-Thomas was allegedly involved in a bribery scheme.
Councilman de Leon compared Black protests to “The Wizard of Oz” alluding to smaller groups sounding bigger than they are “…when you pull back the curtain.
The Los Angeles chapter of Black Lives Matter responded to the audio by saying:
“The anti-Black language and backroom scheming by some of the most powerful Latinx leaders in Los Angeles is harmful, hurtful, and anti-democratic. The targeting of a Black child with racist slurs and threats of violence is horrific and indefensible. Our thoughts are with Councilmember Mike Bonin’s family and we especially offer our love and support to his young son.
“Even more alarming than the blatantly anti-Black rhetoric, is the craven attack on Black power, the minimizing and ridicule of Black protest and the cynical undermining of Black/Brown solidarity. There is little doubt that anti-Black attitudes from people in power as displayed in these comments directly contribute to the ongoing and disproportionate underserving, displacement, and abuse of Black people and communities in Los Angeles.
“The brazen advocacy for gerrymandering, disparagement of a redistricting process specifically designed to avoid this type of manipulation by elected officials, and the attempt to marginalize the City’s renters and progressive voices are truly anti-democratic.
“Perhaps less noticed is the anti-Indigenous sentiment and colorism met with snarky co-signing as these Latinx leaders use white supremacist characterizations. The anti-LGBTQ+ comment and belittling of Black allies are also profound.
“Disingenuous apologies are not enough. Real accountability demands action. Councilmembers Nury Martinez, Kevin de Leon and Gil Cedillo must resign immediately. There must be a fundamental culture shift within the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, which has long kowtowed to white male interests while derailing authentic Black labor leaders. And, anyone vying for a position of leadership in Los Angeles must be an ally of Black people in both words and deeds.”
Like Bonin, Supervisor Janice Hahn called for the resignation of Martinez and when Martinez later announced her resignation from council president, advocated for Bonin to replace her on an interim basis.
“The racism, bigotry, and cruelty revealed in this leaked audio is appalling.
“Words matter. The anti-Black prejudice on display in this conversation compromises the confidence any residents had in these councilmembers’ leadership. Councilwoman Nury Martinez must step down from her position as President of the council immediately, before her colleagues have to do it.”
The local and state branches of the NAACP have called for the resignation of not just Nury Martinez, but all who were heard in the leaked audio.
“The CA/HI State Conference of the NAACP and the Los Angeles Branch of the NAACP called for the immediate resignation of President Nury Martinez, Councilmembers Gill Cedillo, Kevin de Leon, and Los Angeles County Federation of Labor President Ron Herrera after a recording came to light where the three Latino members of the Los Angeles City Council and a top county labor official held a conversation last fall that included racist remarks, derisive statements about their colleagues and council President Nury Martinez saying a white councilman handled his young Black son as though he were an “accessory.
“The President of the LA City Council, and all of the involved Councilmembers should immediately resign. This kind of overt racism has no place in political discourse. We clearly know where your heart and mind are, and both of them are corroded with the rust of racism and hate,”Rick L. Callender, President of the CA/HI State Conference of the NAACP said.
“We will not sit idly by and allow our elected representatives to engage in these kinds of disgusting and racist behaviors,” Latricia Mitchell, President of the Los Angeles Branch of the NAACP said.
Mayoral candidate Karen Bass said she would dedicate the rest of her campaign to “bringing our city together,” saying:
“Los Angeles must move in a new direction, and that is not possible unless the four individuals caught on that tape resign from their offices immediately.
“I want to again say to the innocent child who is caught in the middle of this that he is beautiful, brilliant and loved.
“This weekend, from some of LA’s most powerful leaders, we heard racism and bigotry against Black, Indigenous, LGBTQ+, Armenian and other Angelenos, as well as slurs against a child. We also heard them stoking the divide between our city’s Black and Latino communities.
“To move forward as a city, we must move past the politics of divide and conquer. There is no place for division and hate in Los Angeles. The challenges we face in our city affect us all-and we must unite around our shared values if we are to overcome them and achieve the common dreams we all have for our families.
“That’s what I’ve devoted my life to. For more than 30 years, I have built alliances between Los Angeles’ Black and Latino communities to increase our people’s health, safety and prosperity. I have spent the last two days reaching out to leaders across the full spectrum of Los Angeles’ diverse communities about the need to come together in this moment, and to address our long-standing crises of homelessness, public safety and affordability.
“Tomorrow, will convene a diverse group of leaders from across the city to lay out an action plan to move us toward unity and progress.
“For the remainder of this campaign and, I hope, as your mayor, my focus will always be on bringing our city together to build a stronger future for every Angeleno.”
Mayoral candidate Rick Caruso weighed in on the audio, suggesting all three councilmembers resign, adding that this is a test for the city and “anything short of resignation completely fails that test.”
“This is a heartbreaking day for our proud, diverse city. The comments reported by the LA Times were racist and deeply offensive.
“Now, we must unite and strongly repudiate what was said. My heart goes out to Councilman Bonin and his family. Now, strong action must be taken. I am calling on City Council President Nury Martinez to do the right thing and immediately resign her office.
“I believe Councilman Kevin DeLeon should do the same, as should my friend, Councilman Gil Cedillo. I do believe that in their hearts they are better people than the vile comments we heard on that tape.. But they also know they are role models and they have let our city down.
“Being a leader means taking full responsibility for your actions. In this important moment for our city, anything short of resignation completely fails that test.”
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