Los Angeles City Council elects new president after racist audio leak fallout

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The Los Angeles City Council installed a new president on Tuesday after a crowd of protesters called for voting to be halted until two council members resign for their role in the 2021 meeting marred by crude and racist comments.

The selection of council member Paul Krikorian to lead the chamber comes amid a week of turmoil and public anger over racist statements that threatened to freeze the council’s work and prompted the resignation of former council president Nuri Martinez.

Los Angeles County Consortium Chief Business Officer Ron Herrera, A powerful union leader who also attended the 2021 special meeting, also stepped down last week.

On Monday, Acting Los Angeles City Council Chairman Mitch O’Farrell announced that the two other people involved in the leaked conversation, Council members Kevin De Leon and Gail Cedillo, He will be removed from the committee’s tasks related to real estate development, housing, homelessness and other matters. But so far, both de Leon and Cedillo have refused to resign from the board outright despite apologies being offered.

City Council racist audio leaks: Cedillo, de Leon taken off committee seats amid BLM pressure to resign

Los Angeles City Council member Paul Krikorian talks with Representative Karen Bass, who is running for mayor, as they wait for President Joe Biden at the construction site of an extension of Metro Line D (purple) as Biden talks about investing in the nation’s infrastructure in Los Angeles on Thursday, Oct. 13 2022.
(Sarah Ringwertz/MediaNews Group/Los Angeles Daily News via Getty Images)

Krikorian, the unanimous choice of the 10 council members who attended a virtual meeting, the minimum necessary for a quorum to run a business, said it was time for the city to start filling in the gaps and restoring confidence in the government. He noted that the election of a council president is usually a moment of celebration, but instead, Los Angeles is facing “one of the most challenging times the city has ever faced.”

Protesters chanted a slogan outside Los Angeles City Hall in Los Angeles, Tuesday, October 18, 2022. Demonstrators demanded the city council stop its virtual meeting Tuesday until two of its members resign over racist remarks.

Protesters chanted a slogan outside Los Angeles City Hall in Los Angeles, Tuesday, October 18, 2022. Demonstrators demanded the city council stop its virtual meeting Tuesday until two of its members resign over racist remarks.
(AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

Democratic Mayor Eric Garste In a statement, he said he would work with Krikorian and the council “to help heal the wounds caused by the hateful words of the few.” De Leon and Cedillo did not attend the virtual meeting on Tuesday.

Shortly after the meeting began, Los Angeles police in riot gear faced screaming protesters outside the entrance to City Hall on Tuesday, demanding that the meeting be postponed until the two council members resign.

A protest of about 50 people took place outside the city hall door, even though the council was actually meeting with the acting president and staff inside the rooms. “No resignations, no meeting!” the demonstrators chanted. The police pushed back the backed protesters, who withdrew across the street without incident.

Protesters chant a slogan as they confront police at the entrance to Los Angeles City Hall in Los Angeles, Tuesday, October 18, 2022.

Protesters chant a slogan as they confront police at the entrance to Los Angeles City Hall in Los Angeles, Tuesday, October 18, 2022.
(AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

Black Lives Matter, whose protesters demonstrated outside De Leon’s home in Eagle Rock, demanded Martinez is replaced by a black council member to “demonstrate his commitment to black political empowerment and political and racial recovery”.

The California black legislature said the recording “reveals a horrific effort to decentralize black votes during the crucial redistricting process.”

On Tuesday, the council also took initial steps that could reshape the way government operates in the country’s second most populous city. One proposal would explore increasing the number of council seats, now set at 15, and a second would reform the way the city adjusts council area boundaries once per decade to account for shifts in population, a process Known as redistricting, Resulting in anger about the private meeting.

A sign denouncing Kevin De Leon, a Los Angeles City Council member, hangs across the street from his home in Los Angeles, Tuesday, October 18, 2022.

A sign denouncing Kevin De Leon, a Los Angeles City Council member, hangs across the street from his home in Los Angeles, Tuesday, October 18, 2022.
(AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

The leaked conversation concerned how Latin political power was preserved in redistricting.

Martinez makes racist comments about the black son of White House member Mike Boonen and other crude comments. De León is also heard taunting the child and saying that Bonin “wouldn’t say a quick look at Latinos at all”.

A sign calling for the resignation of Los Angeles City Councilman Kevin De Leon hangs on the garage door of his Los Angeles home, Tuesday, October 18, 2022.

A sign calling for the resignation of Los Angeles City Councilman Kevin De Leon hangs on the garage door of his Los Angeles home, Tuesday, October 18, 2022.
(AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

Martinez also taunted L.A. County George Gascon, saying, “He’s with the blacks,” and is heard in the recording referring to the indigenous Oaxacan people as “small, short, dark people.”

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Herrera, who neither objected nor joined, said his “failure to stand up to racist and anti-black remarks” shows his “deep regret”. Cedillo discussed the presence of Mexicans in charge of the city council and the labor union, compared to leadership structures 25 years ago, and was present but not interfering with the racist comments.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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