Civil rights, religious leaders join calls for LA officials involved in racist recording to resign

Civil rights leaders urged Los Angeles Councilwoman Nury Martinez to step down from her elected post on Monday morning, Oct. 10, 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.

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.

All four have issued apologies since the audio surfaced.

Civil rights activist Najee Ali lead a press conference at Southside Bethel Baptist Church, after audio surfaced on Sunday of Los Angeles City Council President Nury Martinez making racist slurs about colleague Mike Bonin’s young son during a conversation in October 2021,
in Los Angeles on Monday, October 10, 2022. (Photo by Brittany Murray, Press-Telegram/SCNG)

Rev. K.W. Tulloss speaks at a press conference at Southside Bethel Baptist Church, after audio surfaced on Sunday of Los Angeles City Council President Nury Martinez making racist slurs about colleague Mike Bonin’s young son during a conversation in October 2021,
in Los Angeles on Monday, October 10, 2022. (Photo by Brittany Murray, Press-Telegram/SCNG)

Michael Lawson, President and CEO of the Los Angeles Urban League, speaks at press conference at Southside Bethel Baptist Church, after audio surfaced on Sunday of Los Angeles City Council President Nury Martinez making racist slurs about colleague Mike Bonin’s young son during a conversation in October 2021,
in Los Angeles on Monday, October 10, 2022. (Photo by Brittany Murray, Press-Telegram/SCNG)

Civil rights activist Najee Ali lead a press conference at Southside Bethel Baptist Church, after audio surfaced on Sunday of Los Angeles City Council President Nury Martinez making racist slurs about colleague Mike Bonin’s young son during a conversation in October 2021,
in Los Angeles on Monday, October 10, 2022. (Photo by Brittany Murray, Press-Telegram/SCNG)

Rev. K.W. Tulloss speaks at a press conference at Southside Bethel Baptist Church, after audio surfaced on Sunday of Los Angeles City Council President Nury Martinez making racist slurs about colleague Mike Bonin’s young son during a conversation in October 2021,
in Los Angeles on Monday, October 10, 2022. (Photo by Brittany Murray, Press-Telegram/SCNG)

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“In a moment of intense frustration and anger,” Martinez said in her statement, “I let the situation get the best of me and I hold myself accountable for these comments. For that I am sorry.”

As for the other three apologizing, they have also faced criticism for not immediately condemning Martinez when the conversation initially took place last year.

“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.”

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.

It is unknown who recorded and shared the conversation.

But in the recording, Martinez called Councilman Mike Bonin’s son “ese changuito,” Spanish for “that little monkey” and referred to him as “su negrito,” a Spanish term for a Black person that many consider racially insensitive.

Bonin’s son is Black.

Martinez also used derogatory language toward Bonin himself and LA District Attorney George Gascón.

De León refers to Bonin, who is White and represents District 11, as LA’s fourth Black councilman. De León also criticized Bonin’s handling of what he said what bad behavior by the latter’s son while on a float during a Martin Luther King Day parade.

Condemnation of those involved in the conversation has been swift and severe..

And Bonin, for his part, has demanded all four implicated leaders resign.

“That’s where the accountability and healing Los Angeles desperately needs and deserves will begin,” Bonin tweeted on Monday.

He also tweeted a joint statement with his husband, Sean Aria, on Sunday.

“As parents of a Black child, we condemn the entirety of the recorded conversation,” they wrote, “which displayed a repeated and vulgar anti-Black sentiment, and a coordinated effort to weaken Black political representation in Los Angeles.”

Other elected leaders have censured those involved, but have not called for full resignations.

De León, for his part, said there were “wholly inappropriate” comments in the conversation and insensitive remarks that he regrets “appearing to condone and even contribute to.”

Cedillo and Herrera both shared statements apologizing for their failure to call out the hateful slurs in the conversation.

The collective expressions of remorse, though, haven’t mollified the outrage.

Related links

Amid scandal, Nury Martinez resigns as LA City Council president
LA City Council President Nury Martinez facing calls to resign over racial slurs
Leaked audio of discussion with LA City Council members includes revealing comments on redistricting
LA City Council appoints Heather Hutt as the 10th District council member replacing Ridley-Thomas

“Their apologies feel hollow and too casual in contrast to the words they brazenly uttered behind closed doors,” Eighth District Councilman Marqueece Harris-Dawson tweeted on Sunday evening. “We are not elected to mock children, to promote divisiveness between Black and Brown communities, or to negate years of hard-won unity in attempts to conspire for power.”

Labor leaders have also condemned Herrera’s contributions to anti-Black sentiments shared in the conversation and his failure to call out the hateful comments made by councilmembers.

“The (apology) neglects to address President Herrera’s own vocal contribution to the anti-Black maneuvers to designate a suitable replacement CD10 representative following the removal of Mark Ridley-Thomas,” Cliff Smith, business manager for local union 36 of the United Union of Roofers, Waterproofers and Allied Workers, said during Monday’s press conference.

“The statement put out in President Herrera’s name does not take responsibility for his own comments,” Smith added. “These are not the ideas of labor, not the words of its leadership.”

City News Service contributed to this report.

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