Racism Scandal Leads Los Angeles Councilmen to Refuse Resignations
On Thursday, after a recording surfaced of two Los Angeles City Council members making crude and racist remarks in a private meeting over redistricting tactics, they continued to refuse calls for their resignations.
Since Nury Martinez, who made racist comments about a colleague’s Black son and also about Armenians and Jews, resigned as council president on Monday and her seat on Wednesday, neither Gil Cedillo nor Kevin de Leon has made any public statements.
After speaking with Cedillo, however, acting council president Mitch O’Farrell reported, “I sense that he is making some progress toward that decision.” It was expected that Cedillo would leave the council in December regardless of the outcome of his reelection bid this year.
Martinez’s resignation in 2019 made her the first Latina to serve as council president, putting pressure on Cedillo and de Leon.
On her website, Martinez called herself “a glass-ceiling-shattering leader who brings profound life experience as the proud daughter of working-class immigrants.” She was born and raised in the San Fernando Valley, and her parents are emigrants from Mexico.
During last year’s council district redistricting process, Cedillo, de Leon, and Martinez met with a now-defunct powerful Latino labor leader to discuss preserving Latino political power. Redistricting occurs once every decade and can be used to gain political power by pitting groups against each other.
According to O’Farrell, the Other Council Members Were Not Informed of The Meeting
Martinez was recorded referring to Council Member Mike Bonin as a “little bitch.” She reportedly said his Black son’s two-year-old behavior on a parade float was “Parece changuito,” or “like a monkey,” according to the Los Angeles Times on Sunday.
The hour-long recording also includes Martinez making crude comments about Jews and Armenians, as well as racist comments about Indigenous immigrants from the Mexican state of Oaxaca.
Since the recordings were made public this week, many Democrats, including President Joe Biden, who was in Los Angeles on Wednesday as part of a campaign swing through the West, have demanded that all three council members resign.
Martinez didn’t offer an apology for her comments, but she did say to her daughter, “I vow to you that I will strive to be a better woman to make you proud.”
Cedillo and De Leon Would Have to Voluntarily Step Down
If a member is facing criminal charges, the organization can only suspend their membership. However, censure does not lead to suspension or expulsion from office for members. In the meantime, the uproar over the tape caused chaos in the City Council. During the panel’s meetings for two days in a row, demonstrators got too rowdy and the meetings had to be canceled.
In a meeting with the acting president on Wednesday, a group of about 50 protesters shouted, “no meeting without resignation” and other slogans until they were completely drowned out.
After 10 of the required 15 people showed up, the meeting was called off because someone had to leave. The three members of the council under scrutiny did not show up.
Who turned you down? We put an end to it! As the house lights went out, the rowdy audience applauded.
On the same day, California’s Democratic attorney general Rob Bonta announced that he would look into the redistricting process in Los Angeles, which could result in civil or criminal liability.
Clearly, he said, an investigation is required to help the people of Los Angeles regain faith in the redistricting process.
Former member of the Los Angeles City Ethics Commission and current Loyola Law School professor Jessica Levinson said she did not find evidence in the recording that would warrant criminal charges.
Despite the fact that the current maps will be used in next month’s election, she said a probe could require redrawing council districts.
So few recordings “give the impression that they’re explicitly drawing lines on the basis of race,” Levinson remarked. Even though it would be a disaster in practice, “if in the end, we determine these lines were illegally drawn, there needs to be a remedy for that.”
Attorney for the city of Los Angeles Mike Feuer has proposed forming a nonpartisan commission to create new voting districts.
Thompson filed a report from Sacramento. This story was compiled with assistance from Associated Press reporters John Antczak and Amancai Biraben in Los Angeles, Sophie Austin in Sacramento, and Julie Watson in San Diego.