Protests, calls for resignation grow as LA councilmembers recorded making racist remarks

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Tuesday, October 11, 2022
LA councilmembers apologize after racist remarks in leaked audio
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Los Angeles City Council President Nury Martinez and Councilman Kevin de León are facing a growing chorus of protests and calls for their resignation after they were caught on a recording making racist comments about another councilmember's toddler son.

LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- Los Angeles City Council President Nury Martinez and Councilman Kevin de León are facing a growing chorus of protests and calls for their resignation after they were caught on a recording making racist comments about another councilmember's toddler son.

Martinez and de León issued an apology Sunday after the leaked audio from an October 2021 conversation became public. In it, Martinez is heard referring to Councilman Mike Bonin's Black son by a racist slur in Spanish and referring to his misbehavior during a parade by remarking "I was like, this kid needs a beatdown."

Bonin is calling for Martinez and de León to resign after making what he described as "horrific racist slurs" about his son.

Bonin issued a statement Sunday calling for the City Council to remove Martinez as president and for her to resign from her council seat. He added that de Leon and union head Ron Herrera - who was part of the conversation - should also resign from their positions. Bonin said he was also upset at the "tacit acceptance" of the remarks by Councilman Gil Cedillo who was also present.

"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," Bonin wrote in a statement with his partner Sean Arian. "It's vile, abhorrent, and utterly disgraceful."

Bonin says his son was under 3 years old at the time of the 2017 parade referred to in the conversation.

The remarks were made during a conversation involving Cedillo and de León and L.A. County Federation of Labor President Ron Herrera focused on the politically sensitive process of redrawing council district boundaries. Their talk also touched on the efforts to replace Councilman Mark Ridley-Thomas, who's been indicted on federal corruption charges.

It was not clear who recorded and initially leaked the conversation, which first appeared anonymously on Reddit but was later removed from the site. The conversation was first reported by the Los Angeles Times.

The site Knock LA preserved and posted the audio before it was taken down from Reddit.

Martinez issued a statement apologizing for her comments: "In a moment of intense frustration and anger, I let the situation get the best of me and I hold myself accountable for these comments. For that I am sorry," Martinez said.

"The context of this conversation was concern over the redistricting process and concern about the potential negative impact it might have on communities of color," the statement said. "My work speaks for itself. I've worked hard to lead this city through its most difficult time."

De León also issued an apology Sunday.

"There were comments made in the context of this meeting that are wholly inappropriate; and I regret appearing to condone and even contribute to certain insensitive comments made about a colleague and his family in private. I've reached out to that colleague personally," he said. "On that day, I fell short of the expectations we set for our leaders -- and I will hold myself to a higher standard."

Among other comments, Martinez belittled Bonin, who is white and has a Black son, and criticized the child for his behavior at a Martin Luther King Day parade, saying Bonin's son was misbehaving on a float, which might have tipped over if she and the other women on the float didn't step in to "parent this kid."

"They're raising him like a little white kid," Martinez said. "I was like, this kid needs a beatdown. Let me take him around the corner and then I'll bring him back."'

Martinez also called the child "ese changuito," Spanish for "that little monkey."

De León also criticized Bonin. "Mike Bonin won't f-----g ever say peep about Latinos. He'll never say a f-----g word about us," he said.

De León also compared Bonin's handling of his son at the MLK Parade to "when Nury brings her little yard bag or the Louis Vuitton bag."

"Su negrito, like on the side," Martinez added, using a Spanish term for a Black person that's considered demeaning by many.

Cedillo, who was present for the conversation but was not reported to have made any offensive remarks himself, issued an apology for not intervening:

"I want to start by apologizing. While I did not engage in the conversation in question, I was present at times during this meeting last year. It is my instinct to hold others accountable when they use derogatory or racially divisive language. Clearly, I should have intervened. I failed in holding others and myself to the highest standard. The hurtful and harmful remarks made about my colleague's son were simply unacceptable. We choose public life, but our families should always be off limits and never part of the political discourse."

Civil rights groups and other city leaders have issued statements condemning the remarks, with some calling for disciplinary measures against the councilmembers.

"The Los Angeles I love is a welcoming and nurturing place," Mayor Eric Garcetti said. "As Mayor, as a father, and as an Angeleno, I am saddened by what I read. There is no place in our city family for attacks on colleagues and their loved ones, and there is no place for racism anywhere in LA. Everyone in our city deserves to feel safe and treated with equal respect. These words fall short of those values."

City Councilman Paul Koretz also called for Martinez to resign.

"I am shocked and appalled by the jaw-droppingly terrible statements and behavior of Council President Nury Martinez," Koretz said. "I think she should resign for the good of the City."

Many other councilmembers issued statements condemning her remarks, but stopped short of calling for her to step down.

Protesters also showed up to Martinez's home on Sunday, calling for her to step down, as a chorus of city leaders and civil rights activists condemned the remarks.

"Really disgusted, disappointed and embarrassed," said protester Maria Estrada. "Because I'm Mexican and she's supposed to represent our community."

A coalition of groups including the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and the Baptist Ministers Conference are scheduled to hold a press conference Monday calling for Martinez to step down as council president and for all involved in the conversation to issue apologies, including Cedillo and Herrera.

City News Service contributed to this report.