‘VILE’ AND ‘UNACCEPTABLE’: Racial remarks cause City Hall turmoil, backlash

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By Ray Richardson

Contributing Writer

SOUTH LOS ANGELES — City Councilman Curren Price expressed interest in the job of City Council president this week after City Council President Nury Martinez stepped down from that post Oct. 10 after racist comments attributed to Martinez in a year-old recording surfaced the day before.

Martinez announced her resignation from the 6th Council District seat Oct. 12.

The recording came from a meeting in October 2021 with between Martinez, City Councilmen Gil Cedillo and Kevin De León and Ron Herrera, the president of the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, who were discussing a redistricting plan that could benefit the three Latino council members.

During that meeting, Martinez was heard making racist remarks about 11th District Councilman Mike Bonin’s African-American son and other minorities. The person who recorded the meeting and how the tape became public remains a mystery.

Outrage over the taped comments, which surfaced on the Reddit website, was immediate and widespread with even President Joe Biden calling for the three elected officials to resign.

Herrera resigned from his position with the County Federation of Labor Oct. 10. Pressure is intensified on Cedillo and DeLeon to resign, with much of that coming from their City Council colleagues.

“What people have to do, and we as council members as well, is make it so miserable for them that they have to leave,” Eighth District Councilman Marqueece Harris-Dawson said during an interview Oct. 12 with Dominique DiPrima on KBLA Talk 1580. “Every second they are here, they damage the city of L.A. and our ability to function as a democratic government.

Harris-Dawson said “friends, colleagues and loved ones” of Cedillo and DeLeon are talking to both council members in attempts to get them to step down.

Cedillo and DeLeon did not attend the Oct. 12 City Council meeting, but both were in the City Council chambers for the start of the meeting Oct. 11.

Harris-Dawson urged Cedillo and DeLeon to leave City Hall, so the City Council could start the meeting.

“I told them we won’t be able to have a meeting with them in the room,” Harris-Dawson said of his chat with Cedillo and DeLeon. “It was clear to me they did not understand the gravity of what they had done. They told me ‘If we just sit here and tough it out, people would move on.’ I guess, when you’re in that place, to them, resignation seems like throwing in the towel.”

Reaction from the Black community leaders was quick — and angry.

“What we heard on that tape was not politics,” said Tavis Smiley, a longtime Los Angeles resident and founder of KBLA Talk 1580. “That conversation was mean-spirited and unacceptable. If that’s the way you’re wired as an elected official, you have to go. L.A. has a multi-ethnic mix of people. You can’t govern in a city like this with an attitude like that.”

Activist Najee Ali said “What makes this especially painful is that Martinez, Cedillo and de León are progressive allies and friends of ours. They have always been there for the African-American community.

After Martinez announced her resignation Oct. 12, Ali sent out a statement, saying “This is great news for our city. We can start the healing process, but that’s still not enough.

“We won’t rest until Cedillo and de León resign as well. It’s not a matter of if. It’s when.”

Earl Ofari Hutchinson, president of the Los Angeles Urban Policy Roundtable, called for the City Council to suspend Cedillo and de León.

“Both are just as complicit as Martinez in their words or silence on racial hate,” he said. “This is a test for the L.A. City Council to show that it is capable of punishing their own for creating a climate of racial tension and discord in Los Angeles.

The City Council managed to conduct a little business despite the two-day protests. Motions were passed to hold a special election for a new City Council president on Oct. 18 and to censure Martinez, Cedillo and De León for their comments.

Two additional motions were passed to consider increasing the number of council districts and to examine the redistricting process. The City Council will get help in that area. California Attorney General Rob Bonta announced Oct. 12 that his office is launching an investigation into the City Council’s redistricting process.

Redistricting was the primary reason for the meeting involving Martinez, Cedillo, de León and Herrera. Harris-Dawson and community leaders asked Bonta to review the city’s redistricting procedures.

“The tape proves that Martinez, Cedillo and DeLeon were trying to affect the voting power of Black people in L.A.,” Ali said. “That’s something we’re not going to stand for.”

Ray Richardson is a contributing writer for The Wave. He can be reached at rayrich55@gmail.com.

 

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