L.A. City Council Racism Caucus 

By Maddon Hoh-Choi

On October 9, the Los Angeles Times reported a bombshell story: a leaked recording revealed that three Los Angeles City Councilors had discussed plans to suppress the Black vote in the 2022 midterm elections and used racially charged language in their conversation.

In the recording, three members, including Council President Nury Martinez, Councilmember Kevin de Leon, and Councilmember Gil Cedillo, were caught on a year-old tape using racist language and discussing plans to gerrymander the City Council map in a meeting with L.A. County Federation of Labor President Ron Herrera. 

Martinez was regarded as the most egregious offender, commenting that fellow Councilmember Mike Bonin’s two-year-old son (who is Black) was “like a monkey,” and “needs a beatdown.” Martinez also commented that Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascon was “with the Blacks,” and mocked Oxocans as “little short dark people.” “I don’t know what village they came [from], how they got here, but boy they’re ugly,” she added. de Leon also expressed resentment towards their Black colleagues and Bonin (who is white), with de Leon labeling him as the council’s “fourth Black member.” 

 CalMatters reported that the council members also “expressed concern about Los Angeles’ City Council districts being redrawn last year to benefit Black residents while disenfranchising Latinos.” But they also planned to lock in safe districts for them and their allies with Herrera commenting that they needed to “just massage to create districts that benefit you all. And the future.”

“If (former City Councilor Ridley-Thomas) resigns and the African Americans look at this as a hostile takeover because he’s gone, we’ll have to figure that s— out,” Martinez said. “Because politically, they’re going to come after us.” The L.A. Times analyzed the complicated history of race and redistricting in Southern California, noting that “Latino residents make up roughly half of L.A.’s population but represent less than a third of the council’s 15 districts — a fact that has led to complaints that the population is not being fairly represented.”

After uproar from the public and near universal condemnation from the state Democrats and even President Biden, Nurbury resigned on October 12. Ron Herrara has also resigned as President of the L.A. Federation of Labor. While de Leon and Cedillo have so far refused to resign, they have not been appearing at City Council meetings due to their presence causing uproars among the members of the public in attendance. De Leon and Cedillo have since been unanimously censured by the council for their role in the recording. 

 Cedillo has already lost reelection and will be leaving office in January. However, de Leon is expected to remain in office until 2024, which has led some progressives to threaten a recall election if he refuses to resign. In fact, L.A. City Attorney Mike Feuer has called for the City Council districts to be struck down and special elections to be held in 2023 under fairer maps. Overall, many across California expressed shock and disappointment at the remarks and alleged abuse of power, with Assemblymember Alex Lee commenting that the situation was “a thing you’d hear from the South — not the South of CA.”