Nury Martinez resigns from council after racial remarks

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Wave Wire Services

LOS ANGELES — City Councilwoman Nury Martinez resigned her council seat Oct. 12, days after the release of a recorded conversation from 2021 in which she made a series of racist comments.

“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 said in a written statement.

Her lengthy statement made no direct reference to the recording that likely ended her political career, although she said, “To my staff — I’m sorry that we’re ending it this way. This is no reflection on you. I know you all will continue to do great work and fight for our district. I’ll be cheering you on.”

In a statement moments after Martinez’s announcement, acting Council President Mitch O’Farrell said Martinez’s resignation is the “first, necessary step in the process” of accountability.

Mayor Eric Garcetti also supported Martinez’s decision.

“Nury made the right decision, one that I realize is painful to her personally but unquestionably in the best interests of a city that I know she loves,” he said. “Racism and hateful words cannot ever be overlooked by our community or within one’s self, and she needs the time and space to reflect, make amends and move forward with her life.

“Her two former colleagues must arrive at the same decision soon, because Angelenos deserve a government focused squarely on meeting challenges in their neighborhoods that are too serious to risk a paralyzed City Council.”

Martinez stepped down as council president Oct. 10, following the weekend release of the recorded conversation in which she made racist comments aimed at Councilman Mike Bonin’s 2-year-old Black adopted son and at other ethnic groups while the group discussed the politically sensitive process of redrawing council district boundaries.

The recorded conversation was leaked, appearing on Reddit before being removed from the site. City News Service reviewed the conversation, but it was unclear who was responsible for the recording and its leak. The meeting apparently occurred at a Federation of Labor office, and the federation is investigating its source.

Martinez issued a statement announcing her decision to surrender the council presidency Oct. 10, and apologizing to Bonin, his husband Sean Arian and their son.

With Martinez stepping down from her leadership role, O’Farrell, the council president pro tempore, was elevated to interim council president. He has repeatedly called for Martinez, Kevin de León and Gil Cedillo — all of whom took part in the recorded conversation — to resign their council seats.

“There is no other way forward,” O’Farrell said.

Following Martinez’s resignation, fellow Councilman Marqueece Harris-Dawson wrote on Twitter: “Gil and Kevin follow Nury’s lead.”

Councilman Curren Price said Martinez’s announcement signals “the beginning of the end of this nightmare that she, along with Kevin de León and Gil Cedillo created for our city.”

“This sad chapter has left a permanent stain on our City Council, forever changing the face of L.A. politics,” Price said.

De León and Cedillo have not yet resigned their seats. O’Farrell said at a news briefing before Martinez’s resignation that he advised both de León and Cedillo to not come to the Council Chamber for the council’s scheduled meeting Oct. 12, and they agreed.

O’Farrell’s briefing came after he was forced to adjourn the council meeting, with protesters chanting and shouting in the chamber for Martinez, de León and Cedillo to resign.

O’Farrell called several recesses in hopes of quieting the crowd before the meeting could begin. But the protesters refused to relent. After about an hour, O’Farrell announced that the meeting was being adjourned, with all items on the agenda postponed until Oct. 14.

O’Farrell told reporters afterward that he was prepared to wait as long as it took to hold the meeting, but he said the council lost a quorum at 11 a.m. when Harris-Dawson left the chamber. A representative for Harris-Dawson told City News Service that Harris-Dawson left because O’Farrell had “lost control of the meeting.”

O’Farrell said he gave the protesters the benefit of the doubt, but noted that council meetings need to resume “at some point very, very soon.”

“This is a time unprecedented in the city’s history in terms of the dynamics at play,” O’Farrell said. “We need to take this one moment at a time.”

Michael Hunt, one of the protesters Oct. 12, said activists plan on returning to disrupt meetings until the council members resign.

“People want the City Council to do the work of the people, not the work of name-calling,” Hunt said.

Calls for resignations have been almost universal among city, state and federal elected officials.

Both Los Angeles mayoral candidates in next month’s election — developer Rick Caruso and Rep. Karen Bass — have also called for Cedillo and de León to resign.

Martinez, 49, had served on the council since 2013 representing the 6th District in the San Fernando Valley. She was just the second Latina to serve on the council and was the only female member of the council when she won election.

Six years later, she became the first Latina to become council president when she was elected in 2019, replacing long-time President Herb Wesson.

Prior to joining the council, Martinez served on the San Fernando City Council from 2003 to 2009 and on the Los Angeles Unified School District Board from 2009 to 2013.

Martinez’s term runs through 2024. It was not immediately clear if the council would call a special election to fill her seat.

De León, 55, has been on the council since 2020 and made an unsuccessful run for mayor this year. He previously served in the state Senate and Assembly. Cedillo, 68, has been in office since 2013 but lost his bid for re-election this year. His term will expire in December, and he will be replaced by Eunisses Hernandez.

Among other comments in the recorded conversation, Martinez belittled Bonin, who is white and openly gay, and criticized his adopted Black son for his behavior at a Martin Luther King Day parade, saying the boy was misbehaving on a float, which might have tipped over if she and other women hadn’t stepped 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—ing ever say peep about Latinos. He’ll never say a f—ing 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.

On the subject of Councilman Mark Ridley-Thomas’ suspension amid an indictment on federal corruption charges, Martinez said Controller Ron Galperin would decide whether Ridley-Thomas still gets paid.

“You need to go talk to that white guy,” she says. “It’s not us. It’s the white members on this council that will motherf— you in a heartbeat.”

Martinez also took aim at Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón in profane terms, after the group appeared to discuss whether Gascón would endorse Cedillo in his re-election campaign against Hernandez.

“F— that guy. (inaudible) … He’s with the Blacks,” she said of Gascón.

Gascón issued a statement saying he was “saddened and disappointed” in the comments.

“I share the outrage of council member Bonin as well as all members of the African-American community. Anti-Blackness has no place in Los Angeles,” he said.

Martinez, de León, Herrera and Cedillo apologized separately for their roles in the conversation when reports of the recording first surfaced.

“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 in a statement provided to City News Service.

“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. My work speaks for itself. I’ve worked hard to lead this city through its most difficult time.”

De León said: “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.”

Herrera’s statement said: “The calls for accountability are loud clear and deserved. I recognize that the community and our affiliates deserved an apology earlier and I am sorry this has not been the case. I had to face my family and granddaughters personally and apologize to them for my failure to stand up to racist and anti-Black remarks in that immediate moment. I failed them in the moment and for that I hold the deepest regret.

“And now, I apologize to all of you, Mike Bonin and his family, the affiliates and community members, specifically those in the Black and Oaxacan community. There is no justification and no excuse for the vile remarks made in that room. Period. And I didn’t step up to stop them and I will have to bear the burden of that cross moving forward,” Herrera said. “I will do better and I hope that all of you can find it in your hearts to forgive me.”

Cedillo issued a statement saying, “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.”

Bonin and Arian tweeted a lengthy statement from the family Sunday 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,” the statement continued. “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.”

 

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