Indianz.Com > News > ‘We all deserve better’: City officials caught on recording making anti-Indigenous comments
Indianz.Com Video: ‘We all deserve better’: City officials caught on recording making anti-Indigenous comments
‘We all deserve better’
City officials caught on recording making anti-Indigenous comments
Tuesday, October 11, 2022

The first and only Native council member in California’s largest city is calling on his colleagues to step down for making racist and offensive statements about Indigenous people, African Americans and members of the LGBTQ community.

Mitch O’Farrell, a citizen of the Wyandotte Nation, said the resignations of council members Nury Martinez, Gil Cedillo and Kevin de León were the only way for the city of Los Angeles to move forward from the “horrific” comments the politicians made about numerous people and groups in the community.

“I don’t see any way past this,” O’Farrell, who represents District 13 on the council, said on Monday as the city was observing Indigenous Peoples’ Day, a holiday he helped designate.

Indigenous Peoples' Day
Dancers at the inaugural Indigenous Peoples’ Day celebration in Los Angeles, California, on October 8, 2018. As the first and only Native member of the city council in Los Angeles, Mitch O’Farrell helped designate the holiday. Photo: Luke Harold

Martinez has stepped down from her role as president of the city council after The Los Angeles Times reported on the derogatory statements she made in the presence of fellow elected leaders and a political figure in the city. She has announced she is taking a leave of absence but O’Farrell said that wasn’t enough.

“I don’t see how that presence, continuing in city leadership, is going to allow the city to move forward to heal, to move past this, to reconcile,” O’Farrell said on Monday.

“I just think that that presence will continue to be an obstacle if it is still there, in the halls of power at Los Angeles City Hall,” O’Farrell continued.

“Angelenos deserve better,” he said. “We all deserve better.”

The Los Angeles Times obtained a recording of a discussion in which Martinez and Cedillo spoke derisively of Indigenous people who come to the city from Mexico. According to the recording shared by the paper and by other sources a day before Indigenous Peoples’ Day, the two council members made negative comments about their physical appearance.

“I see a lot of little short dark people,” Martinez said of the Indigenous residents in a certain part of Los Angeles.

Cedillo then chimed in with a remark using the Spanish language. He confirmed that the comments were in reference to people from Oaxaca, a region in Mexico well known for its large population of Mixtecs, Mazatecos, Mixe and other Indigenous peoples.

Puro Oaxacans,” said Cedillo, who represents District One on the council.

Cedillo further spoke negatively in regard to Kevin de León, another council member whose mother was born in Guatemala, a Central American country known for its large Maya and Indigenous representation. She later migrated to California from Mexico.

“Not even like Kevin — little ones,” Cedillo said, comparing his colleague to other Indigenous people, based on their physical appearances.

Martinez can be heard laughing loudly on the recording as Cedillo makes the negative comments about de Leon, who represents District 14 on the city council and mounted an unsuccessful campaign for mayor of Los Angeles this year.

However, de León was present during the discussion. He can be heard making racist remarks about the African American child of Mike Bonin, another council member.

Martinez, who represents District Six, and Cedillo made racist comments about Bonin’s child and about African Americans as well. Also participating in the conversation was Ron Herrera, the president of the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, which is the second largest union in the United States.

“We are appalled, angry and absolutely disgusted that Nury Martinez attacked our son with horrific racist slurs, and talked about her desire to physically harm him. It’s vile, abhorrent, and utterly disgraceful,” Bonin and his family said in a statement on Sunday.

“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,” the statement read. Herrera resigned as president of the labor union on Monday evening.

“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,” the Bonin family said.

California is home to more than 100 tribes and to the largest number of American Indians and Alaska Natives of any state, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. But they account for just 0.7 percent of the population in Los Angeles, a city of more than 3.9 million.

A much larger segment of the population in the city, 48.1 percent, considers themselves Hispanic or Latino but no data is available on how many Angelenos hail from Indigenous communities like the ones derided by the council members.

The city council met for a regularly scheduled session on Tuesday morning amid a growing number of calls for Martinez, Cedillo and de León to resign. The Los Angeles Times and other media outlets have demanded their resignations, a message that O’Farrell repeated at the meeting.

“I do not believe we can have the healing that is necessary, or govern as we need to, while council members Martinez, de León and Cedillo remain as members of this council,” said O’Farrell, who served as temporary president of the council at the session.

“The court of public opinion has rendered a verdict, and the verdict is they all must resign,” he said to cheers from the audience at city hall.

Indianz.Com Video: ‘They all must resign’: City council member Mitch O’Farrell – Full Remarks – October 11, 2022