Los Angeles City Councilwoman Nury Martinez resigned on Wednesday following four days of political leaders, LA citizens, and lawmakers from across the political spectrum asking her to step down due to the released recordings of her making several racist comments in a meeting with two other council members and a labor leader.
The comments, which were leaked on the website Reddit Sunday, quickly became one of the top stories in the entire country within only a few hours. According to the audio, which was recorded in October 2021, featured Martinez, fellow City Council members Kevin de León and Gil Cedillo, and Los Angeles County Federation of Labor President Ron Herrera.
The four were discussing council redistricting when they brought up Councilman Mike Bonin, a white and openly gay Councilman, and his young black son and brought up a picture with Bonin and his family in a Martin Luther King Jr. parade.
“Bonin thinks he’s f—ing black,” said Martinez in the audio, pointing out the picture. “He handled his young Black son as though he were an accessory. They’re raising him like a little White kid. I was like, this kid needs a beatdown. Let me take him around the corner and then I’ll bring him back.”
Martinez then proceeded to use slurs against the eight-year-old child, saying in Spanish “Parece changuito” or in English, “He’s like a monkey.” Other slurs and derogatory comments followed, with Martinez proceeding to disparage whites, blacks, and indigenous members of the Latino community. The coverage caused all three affected Council members to release statements of apology, but did little to diffuse tensions.
Throughout Monday and Tuesday, the calls for the four to resign increased. On Monday, Martinez stepped down as Council President, but calls for her to fully resign only increased. Herrera became the first of the four to resign on Tuesday, adding even further pressure on the three. By Tuesday night, some of California and the Nations most powerful lawmakers had called for them to step down, including LA Mayor Eric Garcetti, bother LA Mayoral candidates Karen Bass and Rick Caruso, California Governor Gavin Newsom, and President of the US Joe Biden. In addition, protestors flooded in and around City Hall during the weekly City Council meeting demanding resignations and the LA Mayoral debate focused primarily on the incident. Now Councilwoman Martinez had taken a leave of absence on Tuesday, avoiding the public eye at the City Hall meeting while de Leon and Cedillo showed up.
Martinez, who had been a City Councilwoman since 2013, had lost virtually all support by Wednesday morning, and in the early afternoon finally resigned.
“It is with a broken heart that I resign my seat for Council District 6, the community I grew up in and my home,” said Martinez in a press release. “When I ran in 2013, I wanted to see a change in my community and fight for my neighbors. That is what it has been about all along. No one expected me to win, but with the support of residents throughout the district I overcame that challenge and won the seat for Council District 6. I had the honor of serving in the role of a lifetime: being the representative for my neighbors.”
“My time on the City Council was extremely difficult, and I hope that my work for the city inspires young Latina girls.”
“I apologize for falling short of the expectations of my family, and vow to strive to be a better woman to make you proud.”
News of her resignation was celebrated by many on Wednesday, with some simply noting “Two down, two to go,” referring to the still in-office de Leon and Cedillo.
“We knew this was coming, and Martinez, who arguably made the worst statements of the four, was the second to fall,” said Maria Costa, a Los Angeles pollster who focuses on Latino communities, in a Globe interview on Wednesday. “She just ruined her political career. She’s not even 40 yet, and these things will follow her for the rest of her life. She was rumored to eventually be looking for a House seat or the Mayorship one day. All that is out the window now follow her own little Watergate.”
“We’ve been gathering some quotes from people by phone all day for a quick view, and everyone is happy she’s out now. Some are worried about Latinas in the future running for office, but by and large they are happy that a racist is out. Especially black and white Angelinos we talked to.”
In City Hall, Mayor Eric Garcetti released a statement approving of her resignation, saying “Nury made the right decision, one that I realize is painful to her personally but unquestionably in the best interests of a city that I know she loves. Racism and hateful words cannot ever be overlooked by our community or within one’s self, and she needs the time and space to reflect, make amends, and move forward with her life.”
He added Kevin de León and Gil Cedillo also need to resign “as soon as possible.”
Elsewhere in City Hall, the shockwaves of the resignation also hit.
“People are happy that she is out, but a lot of people are asking where do we go from here,” “Marco” a staffer in the LA City Hall, told the Globe on Wednesday. “If de León and Cedillo also go, that means the LA City Council, along with the upcoming elections and previous scandals, will have essentially been massively overturned in only a few years, largely stripped of serving Latinos, and faced with a rocky future. A lot of people don’t like all this sudden change, but a growing number of people have said that there was so much wrong in the Council that huge changes were needed. Either way, 2023 will be a radically different year in the Council. We’re used to a lot of incumbency and replacements of Councilpeople being very similar. This will change that dramatically.”
As of Wednesday afternoon, neither de Leon or Cedillo have resigned.
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