A member of the Los Angeles City Council who was attacked by colleagues in a recorded conversation that included racist remarks about his young son fought back tears Tuesday when he spoke during a spirited meeting at City Hall.
Protesters calling for the resignation of the three City Councilmembers heard in the recording gathered at City Hall Tuesday for the first council meeting since the conversation involving the politicians and a labor leader was made public. Activists shouted, booed and chanted inside and outside City Hall, forcing the start of the meeting to be delayed.
The meeting, scheduled for 10 a.m., came on the same morning that Councilmember Nury Martinez took a leave of absence. Martinez, who can be heard in leaked recordings using racist slurs in reference to colleague Mike Bonin's 2-year-old Black adopted son, resigned Monday as council president.
The crowd gathered inside the council chambers fell silent after a tearful Bonin asked to speak.
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"I am still trying to wrap my head around this," Bonin said. "My husband and I are both raw and angry and heartbroken and sick for our family and for Los Angeles. As an Angeleno, I am reeling from the revelations of what these people said. Trusted servants who voice hate. These people stabbed us, and shot us and cut the spirit of Los Angles. It gave a beatdown to the heart and soul of the city."
Bonin released a deep sigh as he returned to his seat.
Cedillo and de León were initially in the meeting, but later exited the chamber after speaking with others on the 15-member panel.
The fallout stems from the public release over the weekend of a recorded October 2021 conversation involving Martinez, Councilmembers Gil Cedillo and Kevin de León, and Ron Herrera, a top LA County labor official. The conversation abour redistricting included several racist comments and other insults.
Among comments in the 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."
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.
It was not immediately clear who recorded audio of the conversation, which was first reported by the Los Angeles Times, about council redistricting that involved three members of the council and a county labor official. The audio, which appeared on Reddit, but was later removed from the site, also includes discussion of efforts to replace Councilman Mark Ridley-Thomas, who's been indicted on federal corruption charges.
At Tuesday's meeting, Councilmembers Paul Krekorian, Mike Bonin, Mitch O’Farrell, Curren Price and Nithya Raman introduced a motion to censure the three members and demand their immediate resignation
Herrera resigned from his position as the head of the LA County Federation of Labor on Monday. The organization confirmed his resignation in a statement Tuesday morning, and called for de León, Cedillo and Martinez to "follow President Herrera’s example by immediately resigning as well."
In a statement Sunday, Bonin called on the council to immediately remove Martinez from the council president's seat and demanded she resign from the council
“We are appalled, angry and absolutely disgusted that Nury Martinez attacked out son with horrific racist slurs, and talked about her desire to physically harm him,” Bonin said in a statement. “It’s vile, abhorrent, and utterly disgraceful. The City Council needs to remove her as Council President immediately, and she needs to resign from office. Any parent reading her comments will know she is unfit for public office.”
Councilman Mitch O'Farrell, the council president pro tempore, was among a number of officials 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.''
Martinez, who assumed office in 2013 and became president in January 2020, issued the following statement Monday morning.
"I take responsibility for what I said and there are no excuses for those comments. I’m so sorry.
"I sincerely apologize to the people I hurt with my words: to my colleagues, their families, especially to Mike, Sean, and your son. As a mother, I know better and I am sorry. I am truly ashamed. I know this is the result of my own actions. I’m sorry to your entire family for putting you through this.
"As someone who believes deeply in the empowerment of communities of color, I recognize my comments undercut that goal. Going forward, reconciliation will be my priority. I have already reached out to many of my Black colleagues and other Black leaders to express my regret in order for us to heal.
"I ask for forgiveness from my colleagues and from the residents of this city that I love so much. In the end, it is not my apologies that matter most; it will be the actions I take from this day forward. I hope that you will give me the opportunity to make amends.
"Therefore, effective immediately I am resigning as President of the Los Angeles City Council."
NBCLA reached out to Martinez's office to confirm whether she plans to resign from her City Council District 6 seat. The district includes North Hollywood, Van Nuys, Sun Valley and other San Fernando Valley communities.
De León and Cedillo also issued apologies Sunday. De León called the comments inappropriate.
"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,'' De León said in a statement provided to NBC4. "On that day, I fell short of the expectations we set for our leaders -- and I will hold myself to a higher standard.''
Cedillo issued the following statement.
"I want to start by apologizing," he said. "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."