LA City Council meets for 1st time following leaked audio of racist remarks

Wednesday, October 12, 2022
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The first LA City Council meeting since Nury Martinez and Kevin de León were heard making racist comments was overcome with calls for resignations.

LOS ANGELES -- The first Los Angeles City Council meeting since councilmembers Nury Martinez and Kevin de León were heard in leaked audio making racist comments was overcome with chanting from a raucous crowd that demanded their resignations.

Tuesday's meeting got a delayed start as councilmembers struggled to speak over attendees in the packed council chambers as they chanted and booed.

Councilman Mike Bonin, whose Black son was the the target of the racist comments, took the floor during the meeting.

"First you must resign, and then ask for forgiveness," Bonin said of the racist remarks from his fellow councilmembers.

Councilmembers de León and Gil Cedillo, who was present when those racists remarks were made, were both present in the chambers for a short time at Tuesday's meeting. Martinez was not.

Continuing his emotional remarks before the crowd, Bonin said: "My husband and I are both raw and angry and heartbroken, and sick for our family and for Los Angeles.... Public officials are supposed to call us to our highest selves. These people stabbed us and shot us and cut the spirit of Los Angeles."

Although Martinez resigned as council president on Monday and on Tuesday announced she would take a leave of absence, she still maintains her City Council seat. In the fallout of the leaked conversation, calls have only intensified for Martinez and two other councilmembers, de León and Gil Cedillo, to fully step down from their seats. All three have since apologized.

Councilmember Monica Rodriguez had said she planned to bring forward a motion during Tuesday's meeting at 10 a.m., calling for the election of a new council president. Councilman Mitch O'Farrell has been elevated to interim council president.

Councilman Mike Bonin's son, who is Black, was the target of the racist comments.

"Today, I'm even angrier than I was yesterday. I'm quaking with anger. It's everything that is ugly and broken in politics, and they all must resign," Bonin said in an interview with Tavis Smiley on Monday.

L.A.'s civil and religious leaders, including Reverend John Cager, say the racist words heard during the October 2021 conversation were extremely painful to hear. At a news conference Monday, these groups said the councilmembers were considered to be allies and friends.

Though all three have since apologized, many say it's not enough and they're calling for change.

The leaked audio was recorded behind closed doors as the council was redrawing council district boundaries - something that USC's Dr. Manuel Pastor struggled to hear because it went beyond just talking about the needs of Latinos in the community.

It was a conversation, he says, around diminishing Black political power in the city.

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

Gil Cedillo's City Council term will be over in December after losing his primary earlier this year. Martinez and de León aren't up for reelection until 2024.

L.A. voters have the option to start a recall, but that process could take months. The council members were not indicted, so the council as a whole cannot remove them.