L.A. city councilors resign after slur-filled audio surfaces


(AP Photo/Richard Vogel)

Comunidades Indígenas en Liderazgo (CIELO) and leaders from Indigenous communities across California hold signs during a demonstration in Los Angeles, demanding the resignations of L.A. City Councilmen Kevin de León and Gil Cedillo for their participation in a leaked discussion that included racial slurs.

Laken Kincaid, Managing Editor

On Oct. 9, the Los Angeles City Council came under fire after an audio recording featuring then-Council President Nury Martinez expressing racist ideologies to fellow council members Gil Cedillo and Kevin de Leon was leaked on Reddit. Although Martinez resigned from her council seat a day later, this year-old tape caused the principles of the LA council to be under heavy scrutiny.

In the audio clip where the council is discussing gerrymandering, Martinez is heard saying multiple racially motivated remarks and promoting child abuse, stating “this kid needs a beatdown, let me take him around the corner, I’ll bring him back.” Martinez also said the child was being raised “like a little white kid”, further perpetuating racial stereotypes. The past president also used anti-Semitic language as well. This language all came after a hefty debate on gerrymandering and redistricting out of sight from local constituents.

After the surreptitious release of the audio, protestors disrupted multiple city council meetings calling for all involved parties to resign. Currently, Cedillo and de Leon remain in their respective positions after calls from President Joe Biden to resign, although more audio leaks show that the two politicians were also engaging in homophobic rhetoric as well as the previously stated comments. Currently, contractors are saying they will not work with de Leon because of his presented bias.

This follows a history of embedded racism within L.A.’s culture, including the case of the Rodney King verdict in 1991 and the case of the murder of Gabriel Fernandez in 2013, both believed to have racially-motivated decisions. In the former, four police officers were acquitted by a jury after beating Rodney King, a black man who was driving under the influence. In the latter, L.A. received heavy criticism after lawyers uncovered that the city did nothing to remove eight-year-old Fernandez from his abusive household due to racial stereotypes within the system. 

Many Democrats across the nation are calling into question the Democratic Party in L.A. and its true merits. While this could seem like a nail in the coffin for the Democrats in future municipal elections, Colin Swearingen, a professor in the John Carroll Political Science Department, thinks that potential races will not be impacted by the scandal.

“The recorded conversation included a discussion of redistricting city council seats, so there is now an effort underway to make sure the new districts include adequate representation for African Americans in L.A.,” Swearingen told The Carroll News. “As for state offices, I’m skeptical this will make a huge difference as Democrats dominate [California] politics.”

However, the long-term impacts of this leak are yet to be determined. On Oct. 18, Paul Krekorian took Martinez’s open seat, promising more “transparency and cooperation” in the future. Yet, protests are expected to continue as Cedillo and de Leon hold tight to their seats as the controversy rages on. There is currently no timeline for when the council will return back to their normal affairs amidst such dissension.