Racist, anti-Black, and homophobic rants lead to the downfall of four of Los Angeles’ most powerful Latino leaders
Sunday October 9, 2022 was unlike very few Sundays in the political history of Los Angeles. The L.A. Times and the LA Knock obtained and reported secretly taped audio conversations between then-Council President Nury Martinez (who resigned her post as president of the Los Angeles City Council on Monday, October 10, and then announced that she would be taking a leave of absence from the council on Tuesday, October 11), Councilman Gil Cedillo, Councilman Kevin de León and Los Angeles County Fed President Ron Herrera (who announced his retirement from the FED on Monday evening) in which Martinez referred to Councilman Mike Bonin’s African American son as a “lil monkey” and suggested taking him around the corner and beating him as well as referring to Bonin, who is openly gay, as a “lil bitch.”
The audio recordings go on to show the four engaging in divisive conversation about how they can use redistricting to strengthen their own personal political advantages and draw the lines to marginalize historically Black seats to become Latino-controlled seats throughout the city.
As the audio recordings spread throughout the city via various social media platforms and more and more people heard the conversation, cries for the resignation of all three councilmembers as well as Ron Herrera began to grow louder and louder, Councilmember Curren Price (whose 9th District seat was one of the specific districts targeted) held a candle light vigil and made a motion on Tuesday, October 11, for the immediate resignation of Martinez, Cedillo and De León.
Similar statements were issued by local and national political leaders including President Joe Biden, who called for Nury Martinez, Gil Cedillo and Kevin de León to resign on Tuesday afternoon. Several clergy and community leaders have also demanded their resignations.
On Tuesday, the standing-room-only crowd who showed up to speak at the City Council meeting almost began to riot when Cedillo and De León both arrived to participate in the meeting. The crowd began shouting, “Get Out Cedillo” and “Get Out De León” and would not stop yelling or allow President Pro-Tem Mitch O’Farrell to start the meeting as long as Cedillo and De León were in the room. After a tense few minutes, the crowd calmed down after Cedillo and then De León exited the chambers.
Before opening the floor for public comment, Councilman Mike Bonin addressed his colleagues and the audience with a heartfelt message of the challenges that he and his husband struggle with every day in raising a Black son, and the pain that he felt in hearing how his own colleagues were a part of the pain and racism that he struggles to protect his son from every day.
Other calls for the resignation of Martinez, Cedillo and DeLeon included:
U.S. Senator Alex Padilla
“I am appalled at the racist, dehumanizing remarks made by Los Angeles City officials and leaders that wer made public yesterday. As a father, I am offended that an innocent child was a target of these remarks.
“At a time when our nation is grappling with a rise in hate speech and hate crimes, these racist comments have deepened the pain that our communities have endured. Los Angeles deserves better.
“I call on Los Angeles City Councilmembers Nury Martinez, Kevin De León, and Gil Cedillo to resign and take full responsibility. At this critical time for the city and the nation, we must continue to build unity and solidarity within all our communities, and we must recommit to the struggle for equity and justice for all.”
Joint Statement by Councilmembers Curren Price, Heather Hutt and Marqueece Harris-Dawson
“This is a very dark day in L.A. politics for African Americans, the LGBTQ + 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.
“The actions of our colleagues should not be tolerated, and a vapid tongue has no place in City Hall. Not today, not tomorrow, not ever.”
Danny J. Bakewell, Sr. – Executive Publisher, Los Angeles Sentinel
“To call a young Black child a “Little Monkey” or to suggest that you would take someone’s child out back and beat them is the kind of racist conversation that has haunted Black people since the days of slavery. To discover that these conversations are a part of the dialogue of the very people entrusted to lead the city of Los Angeles and to realize that there is a plot amongst them to minimize the voice and political power of the Black community makes it even more reprehensible and cannot be tolerated under any circumstances.
As a community leader and the loudest voice within Los Angeles’s Black media outlets, we demand that Councilwoman Nury Martinez, Councilman Gil Cedillo and Councilman Kevin De León along with union President Ron Herrera resign immediately to allow the city of Los Angeles to heal and so that we may begin the challenging task of uniting the Black and Brown communities and removing the cancerous divisiveness that has been secretly harming our progress.”
Assemblyman Reginald Byron Jones-Sawyer
“A simple mea culpa is not enough, nor is resigning as the president of the City Council.
“The racist and homophobic attacks cannot be wiped away by resigning a post. Ms. Martinez and her colleagues, Mr. De León, and Mr. Cedillo must resign their seats on the Los Angeles City Council. Their actions are unbecoming of elected officials and they have lost the public’s trust.
“What they did was not in the best interest of the residents of Los Angeles. This was self-interest politics with bigoted rhetoric used in backdoor dealings. This should not be tolerated.
“Actions have consequences, so they must resign. Our city must speak as one community and say that racism and bigotry of any degree or form will not be tolerated. This is how we heal.”
State Senator Sydney Kamlager-Dove
“As a mother of a Black son, I wake up every day thinking how I can make sure he is safe. I
think about how he is seen and treated. I think about what history l expose him to and
from what I shield from him. I go to sleep each night asking if I did enough to make sure he has a
safer chance at life than Dredd Scott, Emmett Till or Trayvon Martin.
“Just last month, my husband and I took him to the National Museum of African American
History and Culture. We walked the exhibitions, painfully reminded of how this country
has bred hate, fear, and contempt for his Black body.
“That is not what I see. When I look at him, I see beauty, resilience, and his unique
wonderment for what is possible in this world. I also see his desire to understand,
embrace, and harness race. That is our future.
“Last night, what I read and heard on those tapes broke my heart as a Black female
elected official working to build and strengthen coalitions across this city. It also angered
my soul as a Black mother and put me on high alert that friends and foes are often the same.
Where we go from here is question one. How we confront our own anti-Blackness is the
next question. And how we commit to making sure that all our Black children and
families are protected from anti-Black racist policies and practices is the real question.”
As of Sentinel press time, only Ron Herrera had announced his retirement and Nury Martinez had announced that she was taking a leave of absence from the City Council. Neither Gil Cedillo nor Kevin DeLeon have made any further statements since their vague apologies or “denial of any recollection” since early Monday morning.