Nury Martinez steps down as City Council president over racially charged remarks

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Wave Wire Services

LOS ANGELES — One day after the release of a recorded conversation in which she made a series of racially charged remarks, Nury Martinez stepped down as president of the Los Angeles City Council Oct. 10, but calls persisted for her to resign from the council altogether.

Martinez issued a statement announcing her decision to surrender the council presidency, but she did not resign her seat, so she will remain on the council.

“I take responsibility for what I said and there are no excuses for those comments,” Martinez said. “I’m so sorry.

“I sincerely apologize to the people I hurt with my words: to my colleagues, their families, especially to Mike [Bonin], [Bonin’s partner] Sean (Arian), and your son. As a mother, I know better and I am sorry. I am truly ashamed. I know this is the result of my own actions. I’m sorry to your entire family for putting you through this.

“As someone who believes deeply in the empowerment of communities of color, I recognize my comments undercut that goal,” Martinez continued. “Going forward, reconciliation will be my priority. I have already reached out to many of my Black colleagues and other Black leaders to express my regret in order for us to heal.

“I ask for forgiveness from my colleagues and from the residents of this city that I love so much. In the end, it is not my apologies that matter most; it will be the actions I take from this day forward. I hope that you will give me the opportunity to make amends.

City Councilwoman Nury Martinez

Martinez came under fire following release of the recorded October 2021 conversation in which she made racist remarks aimed at Bonin’s 2-year-old son.

Martinez and Councilman Kevin de León made racially charged remarks during the conversation that also included Councilman Gil Cedillo and L.A. County Federation of Labor President Ron Herrera. The group was discussing the politically sensitive process of redrawing council district boundaries.

The recorded conversation was leaked, appearing on Reddit before it was later removed from the site. City News Service reviewed the conversation, but it was unclear who was responsible for the recording and its leak.

With Martinez stepping down, Councilman Mitch O’Farrell, the council president pro tempore, was elevated to interim council president, according to his office.

O’Farrell was among a number of officials saying Martinez, de León and Cedillo should all resign their council seats entirely.

“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.”

He added, “Angelenos deserve better.”

A group of elected officials including Councilman Marqueece Harris-Dawson and Assembly members Isaac Bryan and Tina McKinnor also held a news conference Oct. 10 calling on Martinez, de León and Cedillo to immediately resign their council seats. Councilwoman Nithya Raman also called on the trio to resign their seats, as did City Attorney Mike Feuer, U.S. Sen. Alex Padilla and an array of community and political organizations.

Martinez worked for Padilla when he served in the state Senate.

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 in 2017, 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—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.

At another point in the leaked conversation, Martinez recalls a conversation with businessman Danny Bakewell about possibly transferring Los Angeles International Airport out of Bonin’s 11th Council District and into Harris-Dawson’s district.

Martinez says she told Bakewell to “go get the airport from his little brother — that little bitch Bonin.”

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 responded with 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.

De León, Herrera and Cedillo apologized separately for their roles in the racially charged conversation.

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 added. “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 his partner Sean Arian tweeted a lengthy statement from the family calling for the council to remove Martinez as president and for her and de León to resign their seats entirely.

“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. It’s vile, abhorrent, and utterly disgraceful. The City Council needs to remove her as council president immediately, and she needs to resign from office. Any parent reading her comments will know she is unfit for public office.

“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.

“As parents of a Black child, we condemn the entirety of the recorded conversation, which displayed a repeated and vulgar anti-Black sentiment, and a coordinated effort to weaken Black political representation in Los Angeles. The conversation revealed several layers of contempt for the people of Los Angeles, and a cynical, ugly desire to divide the city rather than serve it.

“There’s more I will say later, but right now because I’m still digesting it, I’m disgusted and angry and heartsick. It’s fair game to attack me, but my son? You have to be pretty petty and insecure and venomous to attack a child. He wasn’t even 3 years old. Other than that, I’m speechless.”

Councilmembers Curren Price, Heather Hutt and Harris-Dawson issued a joint statement calling this a “very dark day in L.A. politics for African-Americans, LGBT community, indigenous people and Angelenos who have put their faith and trust in their local government.”

“This is a city council that has said time and again that Black Lives Matter, that love is love, that our families come first and we are all equal. Today that facade came crashing down. Our hearts are heavy in grief.

“This is 2022 and we will not turn a blind eye to the blatant prejudice, discrimination and racism that has been put on full display for the whole world to see,” wrote the councilmembers.

Mayor Eric Garcetti also weighed in with a statement.

“The Los Angeles I love is a welcoming and nurturing place. 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 L.A.

“Everyone in our city deserves to feel safe and treated with equal respect. These words fall short of those values,” Garcetti said.

Developer Rick Caruso, who is running for mayor of Los Angeles, tweeted a statement in support of Bonin.

“I’ve disagreed with Mike on much regarding public policy, but as a father I stand with him and his family and vehemently denounce this hate speech against his son,” Caruso wrote. “This entire situation shows that City Hall is fundamentally broken and dysfunctional. In a closed door meeting, leaders at the highest levels of city government used racial slurs and hate speech while discussing how to carve up the city to retain their own power,” he continued. “This is a clear example of hypocrisy, racism and crude power politics.

Everyone involved in this should be held accountable.”

Caruso also said that “Most of the people involved in this ugly episode have endorsed Karen Bass,” his opponent in next month’s mayoral election, and called for the Democratic congresswoman to demand accountability from them and renounce their endorsements.

Bass later issued a statement calling the content on the tapes “appalling, anti-Black racism.”

“I have devoted my life to bringing people together to move us forward. For more than 30 years, I have built alliances between Los Angeles’ Black and Latino communities to increase our neighborhoods; health, safety and prosperity,” Bass said.

“I firmly believe that we can overcome our shared challenges by uniting around our shared values, and in a diverse and dynamic city like Los Angeles, that’s our only path forward,” she said, adding that she had spent the day speaking with Black and Latino leaders about “how to ensure this doesn’t divide our city.”

“All those in the room must be held accountable,” she said.

Los Angeles Police Department Chief Michel Moore weighed in with a statement that said: “Today’s revelation of the remarks by our members of our council leaders hurts me to my core.

“This is not the Los Angeles I know or reflective of the beliefs of the women and men of LAPD. Such remarks are unacceptable in any setting. A dark day for our City of Angels,” Moore said.

And the Los Angeles Police Protective League board members voiced their opinion, stating, “We are disgusted and appalled at the racist, demeaning and violent words used by the used by the City Council president and another member of the City Council targeting Mike Bonin his family and others.”

Meanwhile, Earl Ofari Hutchinson, president of the Los Angeles Urban Policy Roundtable, is demanding that the City Council and Mayor Eric Garcetti publicly censure Martinez and de León.

“Their apology for using terms such as ‘little monkey’ to describe an African-American youth for instance promotes and reinforces the vilest stereotypes of African-Americans (and) is not enough,” Hutchinson said in a statement. “Nothing less than a full censureship by the City Council and endorsed by Garcetti will send the message that vile racist stereotypes will not be tolerated and will be quickly punished.”

Hutchinson said he “was not surprised at the abysmal ignorance of Nury Martinez and Kevin de León and others on the vile history of the monkey stereotype of Blacks.

“Now the twist is a respected top Los Angeles Hispanic political leader repeats that stereotype,” he added.

Najee Ali, founder of Project Islamic Hope, said Martinez should step down as council president, although he stopped short of calling for her resignation from the council.

“She was voted in along with de León, by the district residents. We’re not speaking for their council constituents. But she is the council president, and we can’t have that type of racist language being espoused by the council president.”

The civil rights activist said what made it even worse was that he’s counted Martinez and de León as “friends and allies” over the years.

“The apology was needed, but it’s not nearly enough for the injury that was inflicted upon the entire city,” Ali said. “And what made it that much more damaging is that we considered them progressives. But it sounded like they were talking at a Trump rally.

“Everyone is outraged throughout the city,” he said.

 

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