LOS ANGELES (CN) — The Los Angeles City Council's regular Tuesday 10 a.m. meeting began — promptly at 10:15 a.m. — and so did the booming chants:
“No resignation, no meeting!”
“Is it you? Is it me? Is it white supremacy?”
“This council’s illegitimate! Yo’ leadership is full of shit!”
And so on. The group of 25 or so protesters was decidedly smaller than that of two weeks ago, but they were a loud and persistent bunch. For more than two hours, a surreal scene played out — a presumably public meeting being held amid a relentless din of shouting, singing and pounding on the gallery's wooden pews. Most of the meeting was taken up with public comment — 122 speakers, talking for one to three minutes over the phone or Zoom. Though it was inaudible inside the council chambers, the council members wore ear pieces and could follow the meeting, more or less. Eight LAPD officers stood by staring at the boisterous mob, chewing gum, looking unimpressed.
After the public comment, the council voted on a handful of items — they set the date of April 4, 2023, for a special election to replace Councilmember Nury Martinez, who just resigned; and they voted to install Councilman Curren Price as president pro tempore (effectively the back-up council president). All the while, the relentless cries of protest continued, some aimed at the new City Council president, Paul Krekorian.
"Fuck you Krekorian!" one man in the gallery shouted. "Fuck you white man!”
It's been 16 days since news broke of a year-old audio recording that featured then-City Council President Martinez, Councilmen Kevin de Leon and Gil Cedillo, along with a powerful labor leader, Ron Herrera, plotting political strategy while using a number of racist and homophobic epithets. Martinez called fellow councilman Mike Bonin, who's gay, a "little bitch," and compared his black adopted son to a "monkey." And referring to progressive District Attorney George Gascón, Martinez said, "Fuck that guy. He's with the Blacks."
The recording made national news and led to widespread outcry, with no less than the president of the United States calling for the three Latino elected officials to resign. Martinez, responsible for the lion's share of offensive comments, resigned two weeks ago. Cedillo has apologized for appearing to condone the racist comments but has denied saying anything racist himself. Other than that, he has remained silent and out of the spotlight. At any rate, his resignation is somewhat by the by — he lost his reelection bid prior to the audio leak and is due to leave office in December.
De Leon, on the other hand, has two years left his his term, and is currently in the middle of a whirlwind media apology tour, giving interviews to a number of TV stations, apologizing for not "shutting down" the conversation, but pointedly refusing to resign — something nearly every elected official in the region has urged him to do.
His latest stop was Tuesday morning when for nearly an hour de Leon was grilled by famed Black radio host Tavis Smiley, as Black Lives Matter protesters shouted outside the studio. Protesters, including two City Council members, had been outside de Leon's house the night before.
"I am here to atone," de Leon said. "I'm here to listen. I'm here to learn."
He said the comments heard on the recording were "not who I am," and that to resign would disenfranchise voters of his district. When Smiley pointed out that de Leon was appearing on a radio show rather than a City Council meeting, de Leon replied, "You don't have to be physically present at the council."
Smiley doubled down: "My point is that you're not in the room. You're not voting on the issues that matter to your constituents. So when you say that your constituents will be left without a voice if you aren't there — you ain't there now."