Bonin not ready to forgive council colleagues

Wave Wire Services

LOS ANGELES — City Councilman Mike Bonin, whose 2-year-old Black adopted son was the target of racially charged remarks caught on tape in an October 2021 conversation released over the weekend, blasted his colleagues to begin the Oct. 11 City Council meeting and said he cannot forgive them until they resign.

It was the council’s first meeting since the release of the recording, in which then-Council President Nury Martinez was heard making a series of racially charged, disparaging remarks during a meeting that also
included Councilmen Kevin de León and Gil Cedillo.

Activists packed the council chamber, shouting and chanting slogans and preventing the council from being able to start its meeting. Acting Council President Mitch O’Farrell attempted repeatedly to quiet the crowd. De León and Cedillo were both in the council chamber, drawing angry retorts from the crowd, which at one point pointed toward de León and repeatedly chanted “Leave.”

De León and Cedillo both eventually complied and walked out of the chamber to the cheers of the crowd. But the crowd persisted in preventing the meeting from starting, quieting only when Bonin began to speak.

Bonin, who is white and openly gay, then delivered a roughly 12-minute speech, fighting back tears as he blasted the comments made during the recorded meeting aimed at his son and other ethnic groups in the city.

He said he did not even want to be at the meeting.

“I want to be home with my family,” he said. “My husband and I are both raw and angry and heartbroken and sick for our family and for Los Angeles. And as an Angeleno, like most Angelenos, I am reeling from the revelations of what these people said.

“Trusted servants who voiced hate and bile. … These people stabbed us and shot us and cut the spirit of Los Angeles,” Bonin added. “It gave a beatdown to the heart and the soul of the city. But before anything else in the world, I’m a dad … who loves his son in ways that words cannot capture. And I take a lot of hits, and I know I practically invite a bunch of them. But my son? Man, that makes my soul bleed and it makes by temper burn.”

Bonin said his colleagues involved in the recorded meeting have approached him, asking for forgiveness, but he said, “First you must resign, then ask forgiveness.”

“People should not ask me for forgiveness. Because I can’t forgive them because it’s not my prerogative. It’s the prerogative of a boy who is too young to really understand what the hell is going on,” Bonin said.

“Don’t get me wrong, I want to be able to forgive the offenses against me and my family and I want to lead with love and generosity and model the world we need to create. And I promise you I will try. But to do so, first today, I need to focus on love. I need to focus my mind and my heart and my family’s attention on all those who have shown kindness and love to my wounded and hurting family.”

He thanked his other council colleagues and others “from around the world” who have reached out with support. He thanked all those who have expressed outrage at the recording, and appeared to address the activists in the crowd directly, saying, “On these tapes I have heard the worst of what Los Angeles is. From you I’m hearing and I’m seeing what the best of Los Angeles is. This city is strong and this city has a very big heart and Los Angeles is going to heal. We can be, can be, can be with a lot of work a city where our reality matches our aspirations.”

Bonin and Arian tweeted a lengthy statement from the family Oct. 9 calling for the council to remove Martinez as president and for her and de León to resign their seats entirely.

“We love our son, a beautiful, joyful child, and our family is hurting today,” they said. “No child should ever be subjected to such racist, mean and dehumanizing comments, especially from a public official. It is painful to know he will someday read these comments.

“We are equally angry and disgusted by the ugly racist comments about our son from Kevin de León and Ron Herrera, who should also resign their posts, and by the tacit acceptance of those remarks from Gil Cedillo. It hurts that one of our son’s earliest encounters with overt racism comes from some of the most powerful public officials in Los Angeles.”

Following his remarks, the crowd again attempted to shout down O’Farrell as he attempted to begin the meeting. O’Farrell briefly called a recess. But after he returned and assured the crowd that they would all be given the chance to speak during the public comment session, the audience calmed down, and the meeting began.

Martinez resigned from her leadership position Oct. 10 and announced she was taking a leave of absence from the council the next day. But she, de León and Cedillo have all resisted calls for their resignations.

Cedillo was defeated in his bid for reelection in the June primary and will leave the council in December. De León was elected to the City Council two years ago, replacing Jose Huizar, who was suspended from the City Council a year earlier after being indicted on federal corruption charges. Huizar is still awaiting trial.

Herrera, who heads the powerful Los Angeles County Federation of Labor and was also involved in the October 2021 meeting, resigned his position Oct. 10.

O’Farrell was among the many council members and other elected officials saying Martinez, de León and Cedillo should all resign from the council.

“I don’t see how that presence continuing in city leadership is going to allow the city to move forward,” O’Farrell said. “I just think that that presence will continue to be an obstacle if it is still there in the halls of power at City Hall. Angelenos deserve better.”