Bonin spurns forgiveness until 3 scandal-scarred LA City Council peers quit

Dozens of activists packed the Los Angeles City Council
chamber ahead of Tuesday’s council meeting. Photo: Linh Tat

On Tuesday, Oct. 11, 2022, fifteen minutes before the scheduled start of an LA City Council meeting — the first since a tape surfaced of council members Nury Martinez, Kevin de Leon and Gil Cedillo that included racist remarks — protesters outside the Council Chambers chant, “What do we want? Justice! When do we want it? Now!” (Photo by Dean Musgrove/Los Angeles Daily News)

Before a scheduled LA City Council meeting on Tuesday, Oct. 11, 2022, a coalition of religious and community leaders outside LA City Hall demands the resignation of council members Nury Martinez, Kevin de Leon and Gil Cedillo due to racist remarks that surfaced on a tape. (Photo by Dean Musgrove/Los Angeles Daily News)

Suyapa Maldonado stands at the front of a group of protesters inside Los Angeles City Hall on Tuesday, Oct. 11, 2022, waiting for the Council Chambers to open for a meeting — the first since news broke about a tape of council members Nury Martinez, Kevin De Leon and Gil Cedillo engaged in a conversation about redistricting that included racist statements. (Photo by Dean Musgrove/Los Angeles Daily News)



With protesters packing the council chambers, Los Angeles City Councilman Mike Bonin tearfully spoke to the rowdy throng at today’s council meeting for more than 10 minutes. The crowd applauded when he finished.

Related: Nury Martinez takes leave of absence from LA City Council amid deepening scandal

Bonin said three of his his council colleagues, caught on tape in a racially charged conversation that included insults about Bonin’s 2-year-old Black toddler, have been asking him for forgiveness, but he responded: “First you must resign, then ask forgiveness.”

The scene now @LACityCouncil

— dean musgrove (@deanmusgrove) October 11, 2022

“People should not ask me for forgiveness,” Bonin said. “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’s going on.”

The crowd prevented the City Council meeting from starting on time Tuesday, with some loudly chanting: “Shut it down!” and other slogans. The meeting finally began shortly after 11 a.m.

Fighting back tears, Bonin said he did not want to be at the extraordinary City Council meeting. “I want to be home with my family,” he declared.

Los Angeles City Councilman Mike Bonin (File photo by Sarah Reingewirtz, Pasadena Star-News/SCNG)

Bonin said, amid the tempest: “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. It gave the 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 practically invite a lot of them. But my son? Man, that makes my soul bleed and it makes by temper burn.”

Bonin 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 ourreality matches our aspirations.”

Meanwhile, scores of activists and protesters jammed the Los Angeles City Council chamber. Interim City Council President Mitch O’Farrell called a recess, saying the meeting would convene when order was restored.

Los Angeles Council member Nury Martinez (File photo by David Crane, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

City Councilwoman Nury Martinez — who resigned as City Council president on Monday amid a mammoth wave of outrage over racially insensitive comments she made in a recorded conversation last year — announced an hour before the meeting she was taking a “leave of absence” from the council.

Now at @LACityCouncil @mikebonin

— dean musgrove (@deanmusgrove) October 11, 2022

The activists marched inside City Hall before the meeting, walking right up to the council chamber’s closed doors and chanting the council members’ names — followed by “afuera,” Spanish for “out.”

The morning began with press conferences and protests at City Hall and promised to be a fascinating gathering on the heels of a scandal involving secretly taped discussions in which Martinez and two other council members — Kevin de León and Gil Cedillo — made comments that sparked relentless criticism and calls for them to step down from the council.

De Leon and Cedillo arrived in the council chamber on Monday, but the crowd jeered them, at one point chanting “Leave!”

De León and Cedillo both left the meeting as the crowd cheered, and had not returned as of noon.

de Leon leaving the Council Chamber a short while ago as protesters refused to quiet down or leave

— Linh Tat (@Linh_Tat) October 11, 2022

On Monday night, City Councilman Curren Price organized a protest and vigil on the steps of Los Angeles City Hall to call for their resignations.

More activists gathered outside City Hall on Tuesday morning, hours ahead of the council’s meeting. They blasted Martinez’s announcement about a leave of absence, again insisting that she resign.

“We are not accepting apologies at this time,” said Pastor Stephen “Cue” Jn-Marie. “We are not accepting a leave of absence. We need you to be absent permanently. We need you to leave the building. Do not take a leave of absence. Do not show up at all. Resign immediately.”

The Rev. Eddie Anderson, a pastor at McCarty Memorial Christian Church, told City News Service that Martinez has lost credibility with the constituents.

“Not good enough,” Anderson said. “She has to resign. Leave of absence says, `Oh, I feel bad but I can still serve.’ No, you’ve lost all trust. You’ve broken the contract with the people.”

As the scandal widened on Monday, civil rights leaders urged Martinez and other leaders to step down, saying her resignation as the panel’s president was not enough after audio leaked the previous day of Martinez using a racist slur when discussing a colleague’s son.

“That’s a great first step but our coalition believes it does not go far enough,” civil rights activist Najee Ali said during a press conference, adding that such slurs don’t belong in politics, “and that’s why it’s important that she step down from the council period.”

During the press conference, at Southside Bethel Baptist Church, in Los Angeles, Ali spoke on behalf of a group of religious and community leaders, who joined the chorus calling for full resignations.

“If you know something is wrong and you don’t say anything about it, it’s a sin,” said Latricia Mitchell, president of the NAACP Los Angeles branch, “so at this time we’re calling for those other three people to resign.”

That coalition has also called on the other leaders involved in the leaked conversation – Councilmen Kevin de León and Gil Cedillo and Los Angeles County Federation of Labor President Ron Herrera  – to resign because of their own insensitive comments and failure to condemn Martinez.

The conversation, which occurred in October 2021, centers on the redrawing of council district boundaries and has resulted in accusations that the four Latino leaders were trying to dilute the power of Black voters. The unauthorized recording was leaked onto Reddit and reported by the LA Times on Sunday, Oct. 9.

Martinez immediately came under fire following Sunday’s 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.

In an email sent to some of its union affiliates and first obtained by the Los Angeles Times, the federation said there was “a serious security and privacy breach” at its offices.

The federation noted that the “illegal recordings” were posted online, but the organization was “successful at getting the posts removed and the unidentified user suspended.” The email stated that the federation is investigating the source of the leak and will “make sure these crimes are prosecuted to the full extent of the law.”

Herrera resigned Monday night as the Labor Federation president, a post he was re-elected to in March. Thom Davis, chairman of the federation’s executive board, said in a statement Tuesday: “Racism in any form has no place in the House of Labor.”

Davis called the comments in the recorded conversation “unconscionable,” “repulsive” and “vile.” He said the federation is also calling for the resignation of the three council members in the conversation.

Martinez issued a statement Monday announcing her decision to surrender the council presidency, 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, according to his office.

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

“I don’t see how that presence continuing in city leadership is going to allow the city to move forward,” O’Farrell said Monday. “… 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 Monday morning calling on Martinez, de León and Cedillo to immediately resign their council seats.

Council members Bonin, Price, Nithya Raman and Heather Hutt also called on the trio to resign, as did Mayor Eric Garcetti, City Attorney Mike Feuer, Controller Ron Galperin, Sen. Alex Padilla, D-California, local Reps. Tony Cárdenas, Adam Schiff and Ted Lieu, and an array of community and political organizations, including the Los Angeles County Democratic Party and county Supervisors Sheila Kuehl and Hilda Solis. Councilman Paul Koretz called on Martinez to resign.

Martinez, 49, has served on the council since 2013 and represents 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 president of the City Council 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.

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 reelection 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 has a Black son, and criticized the child for his behavior at a Martin Luther King Day parade, 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 Council District and into that of Councilman Marqueece Harris-Dawson.

Martinez said 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 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 late Sunday 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 on Sunday for their roles in the racially charged conversation.

“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 CNS on Sunday.

“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.

“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.”

About 50 protesters gathered at Martinez’s home in Sun Valley on Sunday, carrying signs and chanting, and said they will continue to protest at her home, church and office until she resigns.

Beginning Sunday afternoon, official statements began pouring in from city leaders, criticizing Martinez and demanding accountability.

Hernandez, who defeated Cedillo in June, was among those calling for Martinez to step down.

“Council President Nury Martinez needs to resign, council members Kevin de León and Gil Cedillo should be removed from committees,” Hernandez tweeted.

“This is the reason why Angelenos voted out (Councilman) Gil Cedillo,” she wrote. “We cannot have people in leadership who hold racist views, and employ them to negatively impact the lives of Angelenos.”

Mayoral candidates Rick Caruso and Rep. Karen Bass, D-Los Angeles, both called Monday for the meeting participants to resign.

“I do believe that in their hearts they are better people than the vile comments we heard on that tape,” Caruso said in a statement. “But they also know they are role models and they have let our city down. Being a leader means taking full responsibility for your actions. In this important moment for our city, anything short of resignation completely fails that test.”

Bass said the city “must move in a new direction, and that is not possible unless the four individuals caught on that tape resign from their offices immediately.”

“To move forward as a city, we must move past the politics of divide and conquer,” she said in a statement. “There is no place for division and hate in Los Angeles. The challenges we face in our city affect us all — and we must unite around our shared values if we are to overcome them and achieve the common dreams we all have for our families.”

Related links

Nury Martinez takes leave of absence from LA City Council amid deepening scandal
Nury Martinez’s racist slams add a new scandal to corruption-riddled LA City Hall
Demands continue for Martinez, others to resign from City Council after racist comments
Civil rights, religious leaders join calls for LA officials involved in racist recording to resign
Amid scandal, Nury Martinez resigns as LA City Council president but stays on council

City News Service contributed to this report

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