Nury Martinez
Photo from councilmember's official city website

One day after the release of a recorded conversation in which she made a series of racially charged remarks, Nury Martinez stepped down Monday as president of the Los Angeles City Council, but calls persisted for her to resign from the council altogether.

Martinez issued a statement Monday announcing her decision to surrender the council presidency, but she did not resign her seat, so she will remain on the council.

“I take responsibility for what I said and there are no excuses for those comments,” Martinez said. “I’m so sorry.

“I sincerely apologize to the people I hurt with my words: to my colleagues, their families, especially to Mike (Bonin), (Bonin’s partner) Sean (Arian), and your son. As a mother, I know better and I am sorry. I am truly ashamed. I know this is the result of my own actions. I’m sorry to your entire family for putting you through this.

“As someone who believes deeply in the empowerment of communities of color, I recognize my comments undercut that goal. Going forward, reconciliation will be my priority. I have already reached out to many of my Black colleagues and other Black leaders to express my regret in order for us to heal.

“I ask for forgiveness from my colleagues and from the residents of this city that I love so much. In the end, it is not my apologies that matter most; it will be the actions I take from this day forward. I hope that you will give me the opportunity to make amends.

“Therefore, effective immediately I am resigning as President of the Los Angeles City Council.”

Martinez came under fire following Sunday’s release of the recorded October 2021 conversation in which she made racist remarks aimed at Bonin’s 2- year-old son.

Martinez and Councilman Kevin de León both made racially charged remarks during the conversation that also included Councilman Gil Cedillo and L.A. County Federation of Labor President Ron Herrera. The group was discussing the politically sensitive process of redrawing council district boundaries.

The recorded conversation was leaked, appearing on Reddit before it was later removed from the site. City News Service reviewed the conversation, but it was unclear who was responsible for the recording and its leak.

With Martinez stepping down, Councilman Mitch O’Farrell, the council president pro tempore, was elevated to interim council president, according to his office.

But O’Farrell was among a number of officials saying Martinez, de León and Cedillo should all resign their council seats.

“I don’t see how that presence continuing in city leadership is going to allow the city to move forward,” O’Farrell said Monday. “… I just think that that presence will continue to be an obstacle if it is still there in the halls of power at City Hall.”

He added, “Angelenos deserve better.”

A group of elected officials including Councilman Marqueece Harris- Dawson and Assembly members Isaac Bryan and Tina McKinnor also held a news conference Monday calling on Martinez, de León and Cedillo to immediately resign their council seats. Councilwoman Nithya Raman also called on the trio to resign their seats.

Martinez, 49, has served on the council since 2013 and represented the 6th District in the San Fernando Valley. She was just the second Latina to serve on the council and was the only female member of the council when she won election. Six years later, she became the first Latina to become president of the City Council when she was elected in 2019, replacing long-time President Herb Wesson.

Prior to joining the council, Martinez served on the San Fernando City Council from 2003 to 2009 and on the Los Angeles Unified School District Board from 2009 to 2013.

Among other comments in the recorded conversation, Martinez belittled Bonin, who is white and has a Black son, and criticized the child for his behavior at a Martin Luther King Day parade, saying Bonin’s son was misbehaving on a float, which might have tipped over if she and the other women on the float didn’t step in to “parent this kid.”

“They’re raising him like a little white kid,” Martinez said. “I was like, `This kid needs a beatdown. Let me take him around the corner and then I’ll bring him back.”‘

Martinez also called the child “ese changuito,” Spanish for “that little monkey.”

De León also criticized Bonin. “Mike Bonin won’t f—ing ever say peep about Latinos. He’ll never say a f—ing word about us,” he said.

De León also compared Bonin’s handling of his son at the MLK Parade to “when Nury brings her little yard bag or the Louis Vuitton bag.”

“Su negrito, like on the side,” Martinez added, using a Spanish term for a Black person that’s considered demeaning by many.

At another point in the leaked conversation, Martinez recalls a conversation with businessman Danny Bakewell about possibly transferring Los Angeles International Airport out of Bonin’s Council District and into that of Councilman Marqueece Harris-Dawson.

Martinez says she told Bakewell to “go get the airport from his little brother — that little bitch Bonin.”

On the subject of Councilman Mark Ridley-Thomas’ suspension amid an indictment on federal corruption charges, Martinez said Controller Ron Galperin would decide whether Ridley-Thomas still gets paid.

“You need to go talk to that white guy,” she says. “It’s not us. It’s the white members on this Council that will motherf— you in a heartbeat.”

Martinez also took aim at Los Angeles County District George Gascón in profane terms, after the group appeared to discuss whether Gascón would endorse Cedillo in his re-election campaign against Hernandez.

“F— that guy. (inaudible) … He’s with the Blacks,” she said of Gascón.

A spokesperson for Gascón did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Martinez, de León, Herrera and Cedillo apologized separately on Sunday for their roles in the racially charged conversation.

“In a moment of intense frustration and anger, I let the situation get the best of me and I hold myself accountable for these comments. For that I am sorry,” Martinez said in a statement provided to CNS on Sunday.

“The context of this conversation was concern over the redistricting process and concern about the potential negative impact it might have on communities of color. My work speaks for itself. I’ve worked hard to lead this city through its most difficult time.”

De León said: “There were comments made in the context of this meeting that are wholly inappropriate, and I regret appearing to condone and even contribute to certain insensitive comments made about a colleague and his family in private. I’ve reached out to that colleague personally,” he said.

“On that day, I fell short of the expectations we set for our leaders — and I will hold myself to a higher standard.”

Herrera’s statement said: “The calls for accountability are loud clear and deserved. I recognize that the community and our affiliates deserved an apology earlier and I am sorry this has not been the case. I had to face my family and granddaughters personally and apologize to them for my failure to stand up to racist and anti-Black remarks in that immediate moment. I failed them in the moment and for that I hold the deepest regret.

“And now, I apologize to all of you, Mike Bonin and his family, the affiliates and community members, specifically those in the Black and Oaxacan community. There is no justification and no excuse for the vile remarks made in that room. Period. And I didn’t step up to stop them and I will have to bear the burden of that cross moving forward,” Herrera said. “I will do better and I hope that all of you can find it in your hearts to forgive me.”

Cedillo issued a statement saying, “I want to start by apologizing. While I did not engage in the conversation in question, I was present at times during this meeting last year. It is my instinct to hold others accountable when they use derogatory or racially divisive language. Clearly, I should have intervened. I failed in holding others and myself to the highest standard. The hurtful and harmful remarks made about my colleague’s son were simply unacceptable. We choose public life, but our families should always be off limits and never part of the political discourse.”

Bonin and his partner Sean Arian tweeted a lengthy statement from the family Sunday calling for the council to remove Martinez as president and for her and de León to resign their seats entirely.

“We love our son, a beautiful, joyful child, and our family is hurting today,” the statement continued. “No child should ever be subjected to such racist, mean and dehumanizing comments, especially from a public official. It is painful to know he will someday read these comments. We are equally angry and disgusted by the ugly racist comments about our son from Kevin de León and Ron Herrera, who should also resign their posts, and by the tacit acceptance of those remarks from Gil Cedillo. It hurts that one of our son’s earliest encounters with overt racism comes from some of the most powerful public officials in Los Angeles.”

About 50 protesters gathered at Martinez’s home in Sun Valley on Sunday, carrying signs and chanting, and said they will continue to protest at her home, church and office until she resigns.

Beginning Sunday afternoon, official statements began pouring in from city leaders, criticizing Martinez and demanding accountability.

Incoming Councilwoman Eunisses Hernandez, who defeated Cedillo in June, was among those calling for Martinez to step down.

“Council President Nury Martinez needs to resign, council members Kevin de León and Gil Cedillo should be removed from committees,” Hernandez tweeted.

“This is the reason why Angelenos voted out (Councilman) Gil Cedillo,” she wrote. “We cannot have people in leadership who hold racist views, and employ them to negatively impact the lives of Angelenos.”

Mayoral candidate Rick Caruso on Monday said Martinez’s decision to step down as council president isn’t enough, saying she should resign from the council entirely.

“I believe Councilman Kevin de León should do the same, as should my friend, Councilman Gil Cedillo,” Caruso said. “I do believe that in their hearts they are better people than the vile comments we heard on that tape. But they also know they are role models and they have let our city down. Being a leader means taking full responsibility for your actions. In this important moment for our city, anything short of resignation completely fails that test.”

Mayoral candidate Rep. Karen Bass, D-Los Angeles issued a statement Sunday calling the content on the tapes “appalling, anti-Black racism.”

“I have devoted my life to bringing people together to move us forward. For more than 30 years, I have built alliances between Los Angeles’ Black and Latino communities to increase our neighborhoods; health, safety and prosperity,” Bass said.

“I firmly believe that we can overcome our shared challenges by uniting around our shared values, and in a diverse and dynamic city like Los Angeles, that’s our only path forward,” she said, adding that she had spent the day speaking with Black and Latino leaders about “how to ensure this doesn’t divide our city.”

“All those in the room must be held accountable,” she said.

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