Biden calls for resignation of LA city council members over racist remarks

Tuesday - 11/10/2022 22:18
White House calls recording of council members in a meeting last year ‘unacceptable’ and ‘appalling’
The Los Angeles city council president, Nury Martinez, resigned from her role but pressure is mounting for her to resign from the council entirely. Photograph: Damian Dovarganes/AP
The Los Angeles city council president, Nury Martinez, resigned from her role but pressure is mounting for her to resign from the council entirely. Photograph: Damian Dovarganes/AP

Joe Biden has called for the resignation of three Los Angeles city council members who were caught on tape making racist comments in a meeting last year.

The profanity-laced recordings, which emerged on Sunday, document three Latino city council members and a labor leader discussing the city’s redrawing of council district boundaries amid the redistricting process, as well as the need to re-elect Latino members and protect economic interests within Latino districts.

The recordings capture the then city council president, Nury Martinez, mocking the Black son of a white councilman, and her and the council members Gil Cedillo and Kevin de León crudely discussing Black voters and the Indigenous residents of certain LA neighborhoods.

Martinez stepped down as council president and apologized on Monday, saying she was ashamed of her racially offensive language in the recording of the meeting. Martinez, the first Latina to hold the title of president, also said she would take a leave of absence from the council.

Cedillo and de León have apologized but have not vacated their seats.

Karine Jean-Pierre, the White House press secretary, said on Tuesday Biden thought all three members should resign.

“The president is glad to see that one of the participants in that conversation has resigned, but they all should,” she said. She called the language in the recording “unacceptable” and “appalling”.

Previously, many of California’s top politicians, including the governor, Gavin Newsom, US senator Alex Padilla, and the outgoing LA mayor, Eric Garcetti, had encouraged the members to “take responsibility”.

The president of the Los Angeles county federation of labor, Ron Herrera, who also took part in the meeting, stepped down from his position on Monday evening.

Demonstrators filled the city council chambers on Tuesday for the first meeting since the story broke, chanting in protest over the trio’s remarks and demanding their resignation. Speakers urged the council to investigate the redistricting process in light of the council members’ comments and address racism in its ranks.

The recording surfaced at a time when rude political discourse has become commonplace nationwide, but in this case involving members of the same party exposing the power struggles in a changing city.

In LA, Latinos comprise about half the population. The Black population is about 9%.

Black and Latino people often build alliances in politics, but tension and rivalries among groups separated by race, geography, partisanship or religion have a long history in the city.

Fernando Guerra of the Center for the Study of Los Angeles at Loyola Marymount University called the racist language “horrific” but added that the recording underscored the reality of politics. Once power is gained, “you are not going to give it to someone else”.

“There is a political axiom that power is not given up, it’s taken,” he said. Despite the friction “there is not a single case of a Latino taking a Black seat of a significant position in LA” – such as Congress or the legislature.

“Essentially, those two communities were going after the same pie crumbs,” said Michael Trujillo, a veteran Democratic consultant based in Los Angeles.

Jaime Regalado, former executive director of the Pat Brown Institute of Public Affairs at California State University, Los Angeles, said the recording reveals the nature of political power struggles that often play out beyond public view.

“What we are hearing on the tape is everybody else be damned, especially the African American community,” he said.

“A lot of it goes back to when Latinos started to organize and get political power in the first place. That meant breaking the door down to city hall,” Regalado said.

Black politicians “are trying to protect what they have. At the same time, you can understand the Latino wishes for parity” on the council, given the growing Latino population, he said.

The dispute has washed into the city’s race for mayor.

US congresswoman Karen Bass, who is running for mayor of LA against fellow Democrat and billionaire developer Rick Caruso and could become the first Black woman to hold the office, said the Latino council members were “stoking the divide between our city’s Black and Latino communities”. She also called for those involved to resign.

Caruso has promised to take on dysfunction at city hall, and the disclosure of the recording could play into his overall message. He also called for the resignation of those involved.

He called it “a heartbreaking day”.

The Los Angeles Times editorial board also urged the trio to resign, calling their comments “inexcusable” and a sign of how “toxic LA’s political leadership has become”.

“The casual racism and disregard for colleagues and constituents on the audio revealed a serious rot that cannot be papered over with apologies,” the board wrote.

Author: Editors Desk


 Keywords: Joe Biden

Total notes of this article: 0 in 0 rating

  Reader Comments

Newer articles

Older articles

You did not use the site, Click here to remain logged. Timeout: 60 second