LA council head ousted over racist remarks also made crude comments about Jews

Nury Martinez resigns office amid outcry over recording of her and other councilmembers discussing racial politics, including claim Jews ‘cut a deal’ with Black area of Los Angeles

Los Angeles City Council President Nury Martinez, at podium, at a news conference in Los Angeles on April 1, 2022. (AP/Damian Dovarganes)
Los Angeles City Council President Nury Martinez, at podium, at a news conference in Los Angeles on April 1, 2022. (AP/Damian Dovarganes)

The former president of Los Angeles’ city council, who stepped down from public office this week after an audio clip leaked revealing racist comments she made about Black and Indigenous people, also spoke derisively about Jews in the same recording, the Los Angeles Times reported Tuesday.

Nury Martinez,  the first Latina to hold the top post on the council, resigned Sunday as president, and on Wednesday gave up her council seat as well, following a groundswell of outrage and calls for the ousters of her and two other council members involved in the conversation recorded last year.

Martinez made the comments about a year ago in conversation with two other council members, Kevin de León and Gil Cedillo, Ron Herrera, who has resigned as president of the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor.

On the recording, Herrera can be heard speaking about former state Assemblymember Richard Katz, who is Jewish and was at the time serving on a city commission charged with redrawing council district boundaries. Katz was appointed to the role by City Councilman Bob Blumenfield, who is also Jewish.

“I’m sure Katz and his crew have an agenda,” Herrera said.

Martinez responded by saying, “Judíos cut their deal with South LA. They are gonna screw everybody else.” Judíos means Jews in Spanish, and South Los Angeles is where much of the city’s Black population is concentrated.

Stickers are placed at the pictures of Los Angeles Council members Nury Martinez and Gil Cedillo near the entrance of the John Ferraro Council Chamber Wednesday, Oct. 12, 2022 in Los Angeles. (AP/Ringo H.W. Chiu)

The scandal engulfing Los Angeles politics broke out on Sunday when a recording surfaced of of Martinez making crude, racist comments that also provided an unvarnished look into City Hall’s racial rivalries.

In the recording, Martinez said that white council member Mike Bonin handled his young Black son as if he were an “accessory” and said of his son “Parece changuito,” or “he’s like a monkey,” the Los Angeles Times reported Sunday. She also referred to Bonin as a “little bitch.”

At another point on the hourlong recording, Martinez called indigenous immigrants from the Mexican state of Oaxaca ugly, and made crass remarks about Armenians.

Martinez’s resignation statement did not address her comments, though in words directed at her daughter she said: “I know I have fallen short recently of the expectations we have for our family. I vow to you that I will strive to be a better woman to make you proud.”

Shervin Aazami holding his son Barrett and a sign protest outside City Hall during the Los Angeles City Council meeting Tuesday, Oct. 11, 2022 in Los Angeles. (AP/Ringo H.W. Chiu)

The announcement was made several hours after Attorney General Rob Bonta said he would investigate Los Angeles’ redistricting process that the council members and labor leader had been discussing.

It also came as US President Joe Biden was due to arrive in Los Angeles a day after he condemned the remarks and called on all three council members to resign.

Bonta, a Democrat like the three council members, said his investigation could lead to civil liability or criminal charges, depending on what is found.

“It’s clear an investigation is sorely needed to help restore confidence in the redistricting process for the people of LA,” he said.

The council convened Wednesday, possibly to censure the three members, but it was unable to do business because a crowd of about 50 protesters drowned out the acting president, chanting slogans such as, “No meeting without resignation.”

A minimum of 10 out of 15 members necessary for a quorum had assembled, but the meeting was adjourned when one left. None of the three embattled council members showed up.

People hold signs and shout slogans as they protest before the cancellation of the Los Angeles City Council meeting Wednesday, Oct. 12, 2022 in Los Angeles. (AP/Ringo H.W. Chiu)

“Who shut you down? We shut you down!” the raucous crowd cheered as the lights were being turned down.

Acting Council President Mitch O’Farrell said that with no sign of anger subsiding, he didn’t think the council could resume its work until all three are gone, which he said is inevitable.

“For Los Angeles to heal, and for its City Council to govern, there must be accountability,” he said in a statement. “I repeat my call on Councilmembers de Leon and Cedillo to also resign. There is no other way forward.”

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