Community leaders join chorus calling for LA council resignations
Although Nury Martinez stepped down as Los Angeles City Council president over racist remarks she made in a recorded conversation last year, pressure continued building Monday for her and others caught on the tape to resign their council seats.
“There is no room for racist language and hateful incendiary rhetoric to coexist with the duties of serving in public office, especially in a place as diverse as the city of Los Angeles,” according to a statement Monday from the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials. “We call on Los Angeles City Council President Nury Martinez to resign from her leadership post and office, and also ask that the other City Council members involved, Kevin de León and Gil Cedillo, assess the actions they need to take.
“Words matter, and we cannot turn a blind eye to anti-Black or homophobic sentiments. The time for unity is now, and we stand ready to work with our brothers and sisters throughout the community to move the city of Los Angeles forward.”
The community group Union del Barrio also issued a statement blasting remarks by Martinez and de León and called for their immediate resignations from the council, along with Cedillo.
“These divisive statements by career politicians are an affront to the decades of work among Black and Brown communities to build unity and solidarity,” according to the group. “However, let us be clear, the grossly reactionary and backwards way of thinking of these `community leaders’ DOES NOT represent the principles and values of the Black and Brown community.
The California Federation of Teachers issued a statement calling the comments on the audio recording “appalling and unacceptable.”
“Leaders in our local, state and national governments must be held to the highest standards, advocating for all members of their community, and when they fail those standards, they must step down or be removed,” according to the union. “We must unite our communities against hate and fear. That is why we, the leaders of the CFT, stand with Council member Mike Bonin and other city leaders in asking for the individuals who made these hurtful comments to resign. We must unit, not divide our communities.”
Los Angeles Unified School District board member Kelly Gonez issued a statement calling on the trio to resign.
“As a mother, a Latina and an educator, I am appalled by the racist, hateful comments made so casually and callously by our city council leaders,” she said. “Our communities and our children deserve better. This conduct acutely demonstrates that the individuals involved are not fit to lead our city in any capacity. Council members Cedillo, de León and Martinez must resign immediately.”
Leaders of Southern California locals of the Service Employees International Union issued a joint statement calling for everyone involved in the conversation to resign.
“The anti-Black and anti-Indigenous racism, homophobia, abuse of power, divisiveness and outright cruelty expressed in this conversation are outrageous and unacceptable,” they said. “These are not the values of the labor movement and they undermine the unity required to build an equitable Los Angeles. These individuals have failed the test of leadership. It is important that they resign their positions and step aside so the healing can begin and our movement can come together to make progress for all working people in Los Angeles.”
The National Action Network civil-rights organization issued a similar statement.
“We need no further investigation. The video exposes all three council members making or agreeing to statements that are Anti-Black, hateful and shows contempt for the people who paved the way for them to hold these political positions. As civil servants, the council members are here to serve the entire community, not just the ones who look like them. Our leaders should be held to a higher standard, and the conversations expose that these council members can not live up to that standard.”
Earl Ofari Hutchinson, president of the Los Angeles Urban Policy Roundtable, called Sunday for the City Council and Mayor Eric Garcetti to publicly censure Martinez and de León.
“Their apology for using terms such as `little monkey’ to describe an African-American youth for instance promotes and reinforces the vilest stereotypes of African-Americans (and) is not enough,” Hutchinson said in a statement provided to City News Service. “Nothing less than a full censureship by the city council and endorsed by Garcetti will send the message that vile racist stereotypes will not be tolerated and will be quickly punished.”
Hutchinson said he “was not surprised at the abysmal ignorance of Nury Martinez and Kevin de León and others on the vile history of the monkey stereotype of Blacks.” He added that he personally sent Martinez and the Council members his past article on the history of the stereotype and how it has been used to consistently demean Black people for decades by white people. “Now the twist is a respected top Los Angeles Hispanic political leader repeats that stereotype,” he said in the statement.