This Week Has Been an Absolute Shitshow for LA Politics

A week of protests and calls for resignations after audio leaked of city council members using racist insults to describe their colleagues and constituents.
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Protestors demonstrate outside City Hall calling for the resignations of L.A. City Council members Kevin de Leon and Gil Cedillo in the wake of a leaked audio recording on October 12, 2022 in Los Angeles, California. (Mario Tama/Getty Images)

Nury Martinez, one of the three disgraced Los Angeles City Council members caught on tape insulting their own constituents and using racist language to describe the child of one of their colleagues, resigned Wednesday.

“It is with a broken heart that I resign my seat for Council District 6, the community I grew up in and my home,” Martinez wrote in her first public statement since stepping down from the role of council president Tuesday. The statement, while lengthy, did not address the comments she and her colleagues made during the October 2021 meeting that was caught on tape, nor did it feature an apology to the communities she insulted.

Though Martinez stepped down from the role of council president Tuesday, it seemed at the time that she had no intention of resigning from the council altogether. She noted taking an extended leave of absence but stopped short of taking any more action.

But that quickly changed as the fallout from the tape worsened. On Tuesday, the White House commented on the controversy.

“[President Biden] believes that they all should resign,” White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said Tuesday, referring to the three members in that meeting. “The language that was used and tolerated during that conversation was unacceptable and it was appalling.”

On Wednesday, just hours before Martinez announced her resignation, the Los Angeles Department of Justice said it will investigate the city’s redistricting process, which the councilmembers discussed during the recorded meeting.

“The leaked audio has cast doubt on a cornerstone of our political processes. We will endeavor to bring the truth to light to help restore confidence in the process for the people of our state,” California Attorney General Rob Banta said in a statement released Wednesday.

In the anonymously leaked recording, Martinez, in conversation with council members Kevin de León, Gil Cedillo, and now former president of the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor Ron Herrera, discussed how to keep certain progressive members of the council from gaining strong voter bases. Herrera stepped down Monday.

The tape, which was posted on Reddit over the weekend and first reported by the Los Angeles Times, also featured Martinez calling Oaxacan residents living in the city’s Koreatown “so ugly” in Spanish and comparing council member Mike Bonin’s adopted Black son to a “little monkey.”

“They’re raising him like a little white kid,” Martinez says of the toddler on the recording. “This kid needs a beatdown. Like, let me take him around the corner and then I’ll bring him back.”

Martinez also criticized Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón, saying that he was “with the Blacks,” and called Bonin a “little bitch.”

Los Angeles residents were shocked by the sentiments shared by some of the city’s most powerful leaders one year ago, and Black and indigenous Los Angelenos have protested at City Hall and outside the homes of the two elected officials, demanding their resignations.

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“No resignation, no meeting,” protestors chanted during a meeting in the council chambers Wednesday.

The continued protests have stalled further attempts to address the racist comments: Interim Council President Mitch O’Farrell was forced to reschedule Tuesday’s and Wednesday’s council meetings for later in the week due to the crowd’s fury. The interim council president addressed the matter shortly after his predecessor’s resignation.

“For Los Angeles to heal, and for its City Council to govern, there must be accountability. The resignation of Councilmember Nury Martinez is the first, necessary step in that process,” O’Farrell said in a statement. “To that end, I repeat my call on Councilmembers de Leon and Cedillo to also resign. There is no other way forward.”

Despite the growing pressure from high-level Democrats, both Cedillo and de León have refused to step down from their posts. Cedillo is already serving his last term in office, after losing the primary for his seat in June. Kevin de León, who isn’t up for reelection, has apologized for the comments but has been quiet on the matter ever since. On Tuesday, both men were virtually forced out of the council chambers by continuous heckling from demonstrators, the LAist reported.

O’Farrell’s office announced Wednesday that a five-member censure committee had been created, to hear testimony from other members requesting Cedillo’s and de León’s resignations, NBC Los Angeles reported

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