LA City Council

Protests Planned Over Racist Remarks in Recording of LA City Council Members

The comments, including attacked on colleague Mike Bonin and his young son, were made during a private meeting in October of 2021.

NBC Universal, Inc.

More protests are planned Monday over the racist and offensive comments made by some LA City Council Members, in a recording leaked over the weekend.

There are now growing calls for Kevin De León and Nury Martinez -- the city council members heard in the audio recording -- to resign from their positions.

In that recording, Martinez and De León make disparaging remarks about white fellow councilman Mike Bonin's young Black son that included several racist slurs.

"The kid's bouncing off the effing walls on the float, practically tipping it over. There's nothing you can do to control him, parece changuito," Martinez said on the recording, referring to a Martin Luther King Jr. Day parade that Bonin and his son participated in.

The phrase "parece changuito" translates to "like a little monkey."

"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.'"

De León also suggested Bonin's son is his accessory, comparing 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.

Outrage outside the home of LA city president Nury Martinez comes after leaked recordings. Darsha Philips reports for the NBC4 News on Oct. 9, 2022.

The comments were made during a private meeting with Councilmembers Gil Cedillo and LA County Federation of Labor President Ron Herrera in October of 2021.

It is not clear if anyone else was present or who recorded the conversation. NBC4 has also not yet determined if the audio was altered or edited.

"The racial remarks were extremely damaging, in terms of, each of these people representing the entire city of Los Angeles," said NBC4 political analyst Ange-Marie Hancock. "Certainly they represent their districts, and it's not clear whether or not their voters will hold them accountable.

"Certainly the people of Los Angeles are expecting better from their council members. And certainly their council president."

As soon as the taped conversation was leaked, protestors flocked to Martinez's home, bringing signs and megaphones, to demand that she step down as president on Sunday night.

More protests are expected Monday.

The councilmembers released statements apologizing for the remarks over the weekend.

"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 sent to NBC4. "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 also issued an apology Sunday.

"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.''

Protestors on Sunday night said the apology was not enough, demanding that Martinez be removed as president and resign from the City Council.

"The purpose of showing up to Nury Martinez's house is just about accountability, because we all saw her comments that she made, and we know that those comments, that racism and classism and anti-indigenous comments and rhetoric, we know that's reflected in the policy that she makes," said one protestor.

Bonin reacted to the comments made by Martinez and De León, calling them "appalling" and "disgusting," and also believes the City Council needs to remove Martinez as council president.

"We are apalled, angry and absolutely disgusted that Nury Martinez attacked our son with horrific racist slurs and talked about her desire to physically harm him," Bonin's statement with his partner reads in part. "We are equally angry and disgusted by the ugly racist comments about our son from Kevin De Leon..."

Local leaders and activist also responded with outrage over the comments.

Fellow councilmember Curren Price Jr., representative for LA's 9th district, slammed his colleagues in a statement released Sunday.

"This is a very dark day in LA Politics for African-Americans, the LGBTQ+ community, Indigenous people and Angelenos who have put their faith and trust in their local government," Price said.

"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."

Gascón issued a statement Sunday afternoon.

"I am saddened and disappointed by the racist comments made in the conversation between various LA City Councilmembers," Gascón said. "I share the outrage of Councilmember Bonin as well as all members of the African American community. Anti-Blackness has no place in Los Angeles."

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 Eunessis Hernandez.

"F--- that guy. (inaudible)...He's with the Blacks,'' she said of Gascón.

Mayor Eric Garcetti said he was saddened by the comments.

"The Los Angeles I love is a welcoming and nurturing place," said Mayor Garcetti. "As Mayor, as a father, and as an Angeleno, I am saddened by what I read. There is no place in our city family for attacks on colleagues and their loved ones, and there is no place for racism anywhere in LA. Everyone in our city deserves to feel safe and treated with equal respect. These words fall short of those values."

Businessman and candidate for LA Mayor Rick Caruso spoke out against the city councilmembers' remarks, saying in part "as a father, I stand with [Bonin] and his family and vehemently denounce this hate speech against his son."

The frontrunner in that race for mayor, Karen Bass, also came out against the city councilmembers, saying in part: "Let me be clear about what was on those tapes: appalling, anti-Black racism."

She added, "All those in the room must be held accountable."

Contact Us