Friday, April 12, 2024

In Wake of Racist Recording, LA City Council Rocked By Angry Protests

Unless the three Los Angeles City Councilmembers implicated by a racially-charged discussion recorded last year and then anonymously leaked to the public this last weekend choose to leave their elected terms early, there’s nothing to stop them from keeping their jobs — for now.

After an angry and raucous crowd of hundreds of protesters delayed the start of Tuesday’s city council meeting for about 45 minutes and a long list of public speakers told the council how incensed they were over the conversation between Nury Martinez, who resigned as council president on Monday and immediately took a leave of absence, Kevin de Leon and Gil Cedillo — all Latino Democrats, Councilmember Mitch O’Farrell, serving as acting president in Martinez’s stead, announced his own support of the three’s departures and promised the council would work on changing its charter, so that officials like Martinez and the two others could be ousted by their peers if warranted. the recorded discussion was also attended by L.A. County Federation of Labor President Ron Herrera, who resigned after revelations of the recording were made public.

The city charter allows the council to force members out under limited circumstances, such as if they are convicted of crimes or leave the city for an extended period, but none of those circumstances appear to apply in this situation.

Separately, voters have the ability to recall councilmembers, but the process is not fast — and a recall election requires the support of at least 15 percent of the voters in a councilmember’s district.

If any of the three resigns, a replacement member could be chosen by a vote of the other members of the council, while they already need to pick a replacement for Martinez as council president. O’Farrell indicated he would hold a council vote Oct. 18 for Martinez’s successor.

Cedillo is due to leave office in December, because he lost his primary for re-election in June. The current terms for Martinez and de León are set to run through 2024.

The Los Angeles Times first broke the story this last weekend that in a recording of the meeting in question, Martinez was highly critical of the way Councilmember Mike Bonin, who is White, treats his young Black son, who was two-years-old at the time, like an “accessory.”

The Times also reported Martinez was heard on the recording, which was anonymously posted on Reddit but later taken off the website, complaining about how Bonin’s son behaved during a Martin Luther King Day parade, noting a float would have tipped over if she and other women present didn’t step in to “parent this kid.”

“They’re raising him like a little White kid,” Martinez said during the recording, said the Times piece. “I was like, ‘This kid needs a beat-down. Let me take him around the corner, and then I’ll bring him back.”‘

Martinez also reportedly called Bonin’s son “ese changuito,” Spanish for “that little monkey.”

De León, said the Times story, compared the way Bonin’s handles the toddler to “when Nury brings her little yard bag or the Louis Vuitton bag.”

Added Martinez in the recorded exchange: “Su negrito [Your little Black], like on the side.”

But the racist slurs weren’t limited to Bonin’s son. Martinez in particular was heard disparaging the Black, Jewish and LGBTQ communities.

Members of her own Latino community were especially outraged over insults Martinez had for members of the city’s Oaxacan indigenous Mexican population.

She was heard on the recording complaining about the short, dark people in Koreatown, one of the areas where Oaxacan residents have historically lived.

Martinez reportedly referred to Oaxacans as “tan feos,” or, “so ugly.”

Lori Condinus, a local community activist, echoed the sentiments of an overwhelming majority of the members of the public who addressed the council and wanted to see the immediate departure of Martinez, de Leon and Cedillo.

“We are here today to say resign, today! Not tomorrow, not when their term is over…but on today,” said Condinus. “Council, put pressure on your colleagues to resign, today!”