Tensions rise between Black and Latino residents in Los Angeles after Nury Martinez scandal

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Authorities in Los Angeles are struggling to contain the fallout from leaking voices of racist comments forced by former City Council Chairman Nury Martinez to resign.

On Tuesday and Wednesday, the council held virtual meetings to try to move forward from the Martinez scandal after angry protesters disrupted in-person meetings at City Hall last week. But what almost all callers wanted to discuss in the public comments section of both meetings was the leaked voice of Martinez, a Hispanic who rained down rude and racist comments against Blacks and Americans from Oaxaca at a private meeting in October 2021.

Much of the anger was directed at council members Gil Cedillo and Kevin de León, who did not attend either meeting because of their involvement in the Martinez scandal, with several callers asking them to resign. So far, the two men have refused to resign. Both chaired high-profile committees dealing with housing and homelessness before being sacked this week.

Hundreds of people from Los Angeles' Oaxacan community and prominent leaders of California's Indigenous communities protested at City Hall.

Hundreds of people from the Oaxacan community of Los Angeles and leading leaders of California’s Indigenous communities protested at City Hall on October 15. (Genaro Molina/Los Angeles Times, Getty Images)

At Wednesday’s meeting, a representative from the LA County Business Federation, an alliance of 220 organizations representing more than 410,000 employers in the city, delivered a stern message to Cedillo and de León.

“Your residents and our own colleagues have spoken,” he said. “It’s time to step down to enable our city to move forward and begin to heal and finish solving many important issues that have been put on hold because of your refusal to do what is right for the city. You are proving yourself completely unfit for duty and we urge you to resign now.”

Christian Green, professor of sociology and Afro-American History at Cal State University in Dominguez Hills, said at Tuesday’s meeting that last week was “utterly disgraceful and discouraging,” adding that it was mind-blowing to see Cedillo and de León retain their seats. added. at the council.

“We deserve more than an apology,” Green said. “We keep talking about the word healing. But we can’t heal without facing the truth. What these elected officials did was repulsive, repulsive, disgusting, sickening, uninviting, and unpleasant.”

Khansa Jones-Muhammad, a black commissioner in LA’s reparations task force, called on him as a regular citizen on Tuesday, denouncing the “institutional racism” that still exists. “He will not tolerate any form of racism from the leadership of the city,” said Black Angelenos.

Protesters at the Los Angeles City Council meeting at the Los Angeles City Council on Tuesday, October 11, 2022, in Los Angeles, CA.  (Gary Coronado/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)

Protesters at the Los Angeles City Council meeting at the Los Angeles City Council on Tuesday, October 11, 2022, in Los Angeles, CA. (Gary Coronado/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)

Dozens of angry callers—many of whom use profanity and insults—flooded the meetings, confirming the perception that the fragile relationship between the Black and Latino communities was in a particularly precarious state. One caller used clown music to mock the room, while others suggested removing the entire council.

Some callers voiced their past grievances about systemic racism, while others described the chamber as complicit in the actions of their Spanish colleagues caught on tape.

Callers harshly criticized vice president Mitch O’Farrell for not allowing the hearing to be held in person, with one calling him “cowardly”. O’Farrell justified moving the hearing online after Councilor Mike Bonin, who gave an emotional speech at a meeting on October 11 that addressed racist comments Martinez made about his younger son, tested positive for COVID in the hours after the meeting. Bonin was in close physical contact with several other councillors.

But not all callers were against León and Cedillo remaining on the council. An unidentified woman also asked León not to resign. “[de León] He’s done a great job and the real voters in his area respect him.” “I know the pressure the LA City Council has on him is huge. [and his critics] He’s acting like he killed someone.”

Council Chairman Nury Martinez's motion to appoint Heather Hutt as interim councilor for District 10 failed to get the 10 votes required for a public hearing to be held at City Hall in Los Angeles, CA on Tuesday, August 30, 2022.  (Irfan Khan/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)

Council Chairman Nury Martinez’s motion to appoint Heather Hutt as interim councilor for District 10 failed to get the 10 votes required for a public hearing to be held at City Hall in Los Angeles, CA on Tuesday, August 30, 2022. (Irfan Khan/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)

Virtual forums did not prevent dozens of protesters from making their voices heard outside city hall on Tuesday and Wednesday.

“No resignation, no meeting!” Protesters chanted slogans, some tried to enter the town hall. Police officers with riot gear were able to push them back without incident.

Cedillo and de León, along with union leader Ron Herrera, who has since resigned, were in the room in 2021 when Martinez referred to white councilor Mike Bonin’s 7-year-old son, who is Black, as “parece changuito”. or “that little monkey.”

“They’re raising him like a little white boy,” Martinez can be heard saying in the audio recording. “I felt like this kid needed a beating. Let me take him to the corner, and then I’ll bring him back.” He also referred to Bonin as “little b—”.

The calls for a woman who didn’t identify herself by name at Tuesday’s meeting sparked disappointment over the remarks. “This is nothing new to us. We’ve dealt with this type of racism against Black Americans from the Latino community before,” she said. “We’ve been dealing with this for a long time.”

The recording of three powerful politicians discussing with a labor leader how to maintain their dominance in power and expand Latino influence in the city has thrown the council into turmoil and could reshape it dramatically with Martinez’s resignation. Cedillo, who lost his candidacy for a third term last June, is stepping down in December. De León is not up for reelection this year.

Councilor District 1 - Gil Cedillo, left, and Councilor District 14 - Kevin de León, right, at the Los Angeles City Council meeting at Los Angeles City Hall on Tuesday, October 11, 2022, in Los Angeles, CA.  (Gary Coronado/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)

Councilor District 1 – Gil Cedillo, left, and Councilor District 14 – Kevin de León, right, at Los Angeles City Hall at the Los Angeles City Council meeting on Tuesday, October 11, 2022, in Los Angeles, CA. (Gary Coronado/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)

A group of protesters affiliated with Black Lives Matter have been camping near León’s home in Eagle Rock since Sunday morning to increase the pressure on the embattled councilor to resign. They also want a review of rezoning decisions and other policies that council members are working on to influence the Black community.

Nitya Raman, a member of the LA Council who has successfully pushed for a City Charter change establishing an independent rezoning commission, said Tuesday, “What came out of the records we heard last week was clear evidence that our city’s rezoning process was being manipulated for personal political gain.” .

Councilor Paul Krekorian now has the enviable task of restoring confidence in the city council, after being unanimously elected as the next president. On Tuesday, he described this moment as “one of the toughest times” the city has faced and said it was time for the Angelinos to start healing and closing the gaps.

“I must reiterate that we cannot allow two members, who are now in a position to tarnish their offices, to take the city’s business hostage,” Krekorian said. The authority of the chairman of the council is reduced, not increased.

“It’s a privilege to serve in Town Hall,” Krekorian said. “It is a privilege to serve in any public service. And we have that privilege. We must commit ourselves to putting aside the differences that divide us, to put aside the idea that we are serving a faction, a group, or a neighborhood. Los Angeles can’t afford that kind of thinking anymore. Los Angeles.” We have to acknowledge that you serve all the people of Angeles.”

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