Harris-Dawson, Bonin See Possible Impact of Racism on Legislative Agenda

LOS ANGELES (CNS) – The Los Angeles City Council met virtually for the second straight day Wednesday as it continues to grapple with the fallout from the City Hall racism scandal, while two members targeted by three of their colleagues in the leaked recording are wondering how previous city legislation might have been impacted by the attitudes of Nury Martinez, Kevin de León and Gil Cedillo as expressed on the tape.

The October 2021 conversation included racist comments and discussions over favorable redistricting, and led to Martinez resigning her council presidency and later her council seat last week. De León and Cedillo have been under mounting pressure to resign since the release of the tape Oct. 9.

Councilman Marqueece Harris-Dawson recalled that when the council was discussing whether to expand the 41.18 ordinance to restrict where people could set up encampments on sidewalks, he brought up concerns to Martinez about how the legislation would disproportionately impact Black people. Black people make up 8% of Los Angeles but account for over one-third of its homeless population.

Harris-Dawson asked Martinez to adjust the ordinance so that “the streets stay clean, but we also don’t open up a large Black population to interaction and harassment by law enforcement,” he told City News Service.

“She said, `Yeah, you’re right,”‘ Harris-Dawson said. “And she literally walked out of that room and put something on the floor that didn’t do any of that.”

Harris-Dawson said he was previously puzzled by some of the votes the three council members would take.

“I thought these were people who cared about the fate of African American people in the city, but they’re voting in the same way that officials in very right-wing cities would vote,” Harris-Dawson said. “I was always puzzled by that. Now, I feel like it’s explained.”

Councilman Mike Bonin, whose 2-year-old Black son was the target of a racial slur by Martinez in the recording, posted a lengthy Twitter thread on Tuesday night accusing Martinez, de León and Cedillo of killing, stalling or weakening legislation in order to “undermine truly progressive reforms.” He claimed that several proposals he brought up related to homelessness didn’t make it through the council because of the three. De León ran the council’s Homelessness and Poverty Committee and Cedillo chaired the Housing Committee until they were stripped of those positions this week.

“If legislation benefited renters, or pushed approaches to homelessness that focused on housing and services, it was in trouble,” Bonin said.

During Wednesday’s meeting, Bonin sat in front of a sign that read “Resign” in all caps. He gave a thumbs up when a caller mentioned recalling de León.

The council took public comment for an hour and 40 minutes, which President Pro Tempore Mitch O’Farrell — who ran the meeting from the council chamber while the rest of the council took part remotely — said included everyone who called in.

This week’s meetings are being held virtually due to multiple council members testing positive for COVID-19, with the chamber open only to the media and city staff. Bonin tested positive for COVID-19 last week and has since tested negative, but Council President Paul Krekorian tested positive Monday. Last week’s meetings were also disrupted by protesters, resulting in Friday’s meeting being canceled.

The council met Wednesday with 10 members, the minimum for a quorum. De León and Cedillo continued to be absent. Council members Monica Rodriguez and Curren Price were also absent. Rodriguez left partially through Tuesday’s meeting due to a family emergency, and Councilman Curren Price was absent because he was protesting the decision to hold the meeting virtually.

On Wednesday, the council voted to continue local emergency declarations due to COVID-19 and monkeypox for at least another 30 days, along with the allowance of remote meetings due to COVID-19 concerns under AB 361. Councilman Joe Buscaino was the only council member to vote against both COVID- related items, with Councilman John Lee also voting against continuing the local emergency declaration for COVID-19.

Protesters calling for the council not to meet until both de León and Cedillo resign were outside City Hall again  Wednesday, placing crime-scene tape at the entrance.

“The scene of continued crimes, we must shut it down, replace the hate, shed light on the conspiracy(s), and take our city back,” the activist group Los Angeles Community Action Network wrote on Twitter.

On Tuesday, a couple dozen protesters gathered outside City Hall, trying to enter the locked building during the meeting and chanting “No resignations, no meeting.” The protesters were confronted by police in riot gear, and a video posted by Spectrum News on Twitter showed one officer grabbing a protester on the back of the neck to keep him out of the building as another protester was trying to push him into City Hall.

Some members of the public who called in also criticized the council for continuing to meet with the two embattled members still in their positions, though Krekorian pledged Tuesday that the council would not be held hostage by de León and Cedillo.

Jamie York, a member of the Reseda Neighborhood Council, said the council should refuse to hear any items put forward by de León and Cedillo.

“Why are we doing Kevin’s business for him?” York told the council. “Don’t schedule any business for CD 14 or CD 1 until they resign. It’s very easy. There are things that you can do that apply pressure, but that still allow you to do business,” York said.

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