Nury Martinez taking leave of absence from LA City Council following leaked audio of racist remarks

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Tuesday, October 11, 2022
Faith leaders join activists in rally to denounce racism in LA
Many who spoke at the rally Tuesday morning say they've lost faith in the leadership of Councilmembers Nury Martinez, Kevin de León and Gil Cedillo.

LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- Nury Martinez is taking a leave of absence from the Los Angeles City Council in the aftermath of a leaked audio recording in which she was heard making racist comments.

"This has been one of the most difficult times of my life and I recognize this is entirely of my own making. At this moment, I need to take a leave of absence and take some time to have an honest and heartfelt conversation with my family, my constituents, and community leaders. I am so sorry to the residents of Council District 6, my colleagues, and the City of Los Angeles," she said in a statement Tuesday morning.

Since the release of that leaked conservation with other councilmembers, Martinez has resigned as president of the L.A. City Council. However, calls for her full resignation have only intensified among the public and her colleagues on the council.

The City Council is set to hold its first meeting since the audio was leaked on Sunday.

The leaked audio from an October 2021 conversation became public when an anonymous user posted it on Reddit. In it, Martinez was 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 "This kid needs a beatdown."

The remarks were made during a conversation involving Councilman Gil Cedillo, Kevin de León and L.A. County Federation of Labor President Ron Herrera focusing 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.

Bonin and many other L.A. leaders called for Martinez and de León to resign.

"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."

READ ALSO | LA Councilwoman Heather Hutt calls for colleagues to resign: 'I am a Black woman, not a pawn'

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

Bonin also called for de León and Herrera - who was part of the conversation - to resign from their positions. Herrera resigned Monday night, Eyewitness News learned.

Bonin said he was also upset at the "tacit acceptance" of the remarks by Cedillo, who was also present.

De León 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 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."

Councilmembers in the recording are also heard talking about the Koreatown neighborhood.

"I see a lot of little short dark people," Martinez said in reference to a particular area of the largely Hispanic Koreatown neighborhood. She was apparently referring to Indigenous Oaxacan immigrants.

"I was like, I don't know where these people are from, I don't know what village they came (from), how they got here," Martinez said, adding "Tan feos" - "They're ugly."

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."

WATCH | LA City Hall audio leak: What are the long-term ramifications?

Dr. Fernando Guerra, the director of the Center for the Study of Los Angeles at LMU, speaks out on the racial dynamics among members of City Council and what the long-term ramifications could look like after a recorded conversation showed Nury Martinez making a a series of racially charged remarks.

Councilman Marqueece Harris-Dawson and Assemblyman Isaac Bryan, who was mentioned during the conversation, spoke out Monday afternoon, calling for the full resignation of Cedillo, De León and Martinez.

"These are folks that I work with, folks that I've been colleagues with, folks that I considered allies and friends, and I think what we heard on the tape disqualifies them from service on the Los Angeles City Council," said Harris-Dawson, who believes the recordings were released by what he called "an employee-employer conflict."

"We can't have a city council where every day we go in, there's someone sitting there that called a Black child a monkey," he said. "It's not tenable, it's inconsistent with the city of Los Angeles, it's not who we want to be. I don't even think it's who [Martinez] wants us to be."

"We can't have a city council where every day we go in, there's someone sitting there that called a Black child a monkey," he said. "It's not tenable, it's inconsistent with the city of Los Angeles, it's not who we want to be. I don't even think it's who [Martinez] wants us to be."

Bryan said the recordings suggested he was anti-labor, which he said "is counter to the values that I hold for working people."

"I think my name was wobbled in the Council District 10 conversation along with [Assemblyman] Reggie Jones-Sawyers name when they were talking about allies and enemies and that appointment process," said Bryan. "But overall, I'm hurt today. I think most Angelenos are hurt today. I think most people in California are hurt today, and so I'm grateful to the Latino leaders in the community who have stepped up and condemned these remarks. I'm grateful to the labor leaders who have stepped up and condemned these remarks."

WATCH | LA redistricting: Does leaked audio show process was manipulated?

Councilwoman Nithya Raman, who represents L.A.'s 4th district, spoke out about the leaked conversation involving several of her colleagues and shares what she believes needs to be done to move forward.

The National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials called the comments appalling, heartbreaking and unacceptable.

"First off, there is absolutely no place, zero place, for racism among anyone in public service," said Erica Bernal-Martinez with NALEAO. "With Los Angeles being the diverse city that it is, there are very complex challenges before us affecting they everyday day lives of Angelenos."