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Latino LA City Council Members Apologize After Leaking Racist Comments

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A small group of Los Angeles city leaders faced embarrassment and chastisement after an audio recording of racist comments surfaced at a private meeting on Sunday.

The most egregious comments were made by City Council President Nury Martinez, who appeared to verify the 2021 recording by apologize to voters. She compared a colleague’s son, Black and then 2 years old, to an animal and seemed to imply that the progressive county prosecutor should not be supported as he may be popular with Black Angelenos.

The audio of a political strategy meeting attended by a handful of Latino Democrats on the council was first reported on Sunday by the Los Angeles Times. It had surfaced on a Reddit discussion board this month, but was removed. The source of the recording is unknown and NBC News has not determined whether it was edited.

The meeting, apparently about political strategy and realignment, was attended by Martinez and councilors Gil Cedillo and Kevin de León, as well as Ron Herrera, the chairman of the powerful Los Angeles County Federation of Labor. All are Latino Democrats.

The comments about the child, the son of outgoing councilor Mike Bonin, related to his behavior at a parade in 2017, when he was 2. Martinez used a Spanish term to call the boy an animal.

Martinez also fired Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón, a legal reform advocate who has been taunted by law and order politicians and who has survived two Republican-led recall attempts because he won the support of the people. in the room is unworthy.

“F… that guy. He’s with the Blacks,’ she said.

De León, a San Diego-raised politician who rose to statewide fame as a legislator and then unsuccessfully ran for mayor of Los Angeles, weighed in on Bonin, who is gay, by suggesting he treated his son like a fashion accessory — a handbag. .

Martinez asked why Bonin allegedly thinks he is black, and De León replied, “His child is.”

De León called Bonin, who is white, the “fourth black member” of the 15-seat council. De León said Bonin doesn’t support Latinos — that he’s never said “beep” about them.

In the audio, Cedillo joined the conversation when it came to finding a supporter of the group to name a council seat that became vacant after Councilman Mark Ridley-Thomas was suspended on a federal charge of alleged corruption. He pleaded innocent and his trial begins on November 15.

During the meeting, the group settled on Heather Hutt, one of the three black members of the council, who was subsequently appointed by the full council.

Herrera didn’t seem to make racist remarks. He did say that the group’s support for a leader to take over the seat of a traditionally black district should be someone who would be an ally on Latino interests.

Alex Alonso, a Chicano and Latino researcher at California State University, Los Angeles, said he agreed with Bonin’s call for Martinez, De León and Herrera to resign and said the episode points to deep cracks in the population of the city.

“This is very typical of how difficult it is to improve black-and-brown relationships in our city,” said Alonso, who is black and Latino.

A statement attributed to Bonin and his partner, Sean Arian, called on Martinez to resign while urging the council to remove her as president.

The statement characterized Martinez’s comments about the son as “dehumanizing” and said: “It is painful to know that one day he will read these comments.”

The Bonin family statement said Cedillo alone could not be involved in making or supporting racist views, but it expressed disappointment, saying his apparent silence was “tacit acceptance of those comments.”

All four apologized in statements. Martinez said the meeting was about reclassification and how it could better represent people of color. Martinez, who worked for one of the city’s most prominent black leaders, Herb Wesson, said her track record on race and diversity “speaks for itself.”

“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,” she said in a statement to NBC Los Angeles. “I’m sorry about that.”

De León said: “There have been comments made in the context of this meeting that are completely inappropriate; and I am sorry that I privately condoned and even contributed some insensitive comments about a colleague and his family. I personally approached that colleague.

“On that day I did not live up to the expectations we set for our leaders – and I will hold myself to a higher standard.”

In his statement, Cedillo apologized and said he should have intervened when racist comments were made.

“I want to start by apologizing,” he said. “Although I did not get into the conversation in question, I was sometimes present at this meeting last year,” he continued. “My instinct is to hold others accountable when they use derogatory or racially divisive language. I should have intervened clearly.”

Herrera’s statement, issued through the provincial labor organization, said there was no excuse for the comments and for his inaction. “I have not risen to stop them and I will have to bear the burden of that cross to move forward,” he said.

Lorena González of the politically pivotal California Labor Federation called the racist comments “abhorrent” and said, “Black and brown leaders must come together to fight for justice for our shared communities.”

She called on no one to resign.

In a statement, California Democratic Party chairman Rusty Hicks condemned the comments as “harmful to our collective work.” He also did not call for resignation.

The controversy appears to have shaken the political establishment in Los Angeles, which has been ruled by the people on the tape for years, at a time when the city’s worker-backed Democratic leaders face challenges from the right-wing. area of ​​homelessness and police.

Those issues are at the heart of the race to replace Mayor Eric Garcetti, who pits veteran Democrat, US Representative Karen Bass, against former Republican billionaire Rick Caruso.

Observers say the three black members of the council could come up with a consistent response to the controversy in the coming week if they band together and decide to call on one or more of the people to step down.

City hall veteran Jasmyne A. Cannick, who has also served as a spokesperson and political commentator, said, “Pressure will be put on Curren Price and Marqueece Harris-Dawson and Heather Hutt to resign.”

The three issued a joint statement on Sunday evening calling the city council’s support for Black Lives Matter “a facade.” The statement did not rule out calling for the resignation of leaders at the meeting.

“The actions of our colleagues should not be tolerated and a faint tongue has no place in City Hall,” the statement read. “Not today, not tomorrow, not ever.”

In a statement, Caruso noted another facet of the meeting: its non-public nature.

“This whole situation shows that City Hall is fundamentally broken and dysfunctional,” said Caruso, the developer of the Grove shopping center. “In a closed-door meeting, leaders at the highest levels of the city government used racist and hate speech as they discussed how to divide the city in order to maintain their own power.”

Alonso said the controversy could lead to a reckoning and new leadership, or it could discourage an already divided city.

Alonso, a well-known gang expert, said neighborhood leaders have long been desperate to bring peace between black and Latino people in the city. And now they have to ask, he said, “Are we wasting our time trying to get along?”

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