from the maybe-the-real-problem-is-the-councilmembers dept
The Los Angeles Police Department is here to serve and protect… the powerful. The rest of you are on your own.
Earlier this year, someone leaked an audio recording of a closed-door meeting attended by the city’s Latino lawmakers. The comments made during this meeting were extremely disturbing, exposing the racism and bigotry of the meeting’s attendees.
In this surreptitiously recorded conversation from October 2021, Los Angeles City Council President Nury Martinez — while speaking with Councilmembers Kevin de León and Gil Cedillo as well as Los Angeles County Federation of Labor President Ron Herrera — made racist remarks and insults about various elected officials.
Martinez focused in particular on Councilmember Mike Bonin, who is white, and Bonin’s young son, who is Black. At one point, Martinez called Bonin a “little bitch” and referred to his son as “Parece changuito,” or “like a monkey.” She also said Bonin’s son had misbehaved on a parade float and needed a “beatdown.”
The recording didn’t surface until nearly a year later. It debuted at Reddit, posted by a now-suspended user. There’s more to the recording, none of it good.
“I see a lot of little short dark people,” Martinez said of that section of Koreatown, employing stereotypes long used against Oaxacans in Mexico and in the United States.
“I was like, I don’t know where these people are from, I don’t know what village they came [from], how they got here,” Martinez said, before adding “Tan feos” — “They’re ugly.”
Martinez says “F— that guy … He’s with the Blacks” while speaking about Los Angeles County Dist. Atty. George Gascón.
The correct response from law enforcement would have been to do nothing. If councilmembers didn’t want to come off as bigoted idiots, they shouldn’t have said the things they did. But power protects power and the LAPD has decided to get involved, wielding a wiretapping statute in hopes of finding out who created and leaked this recording.
Police have sought a search warrant for the Reddit website as they try to identify the person who leaked a racist discussion between Los Angeles City Council members and a powerful labor leader, causing a scandal that has rocked the community and shaken faith in its lawmakers.
The LAPD is trying to determine the origin of the recording that appeared on the site in October, according to a Tuesday statement.
“The investigation involves interviews of persons present and any potential witnesses that have insight into this investigation. A search warrant request has been initiated to Reddit in order to identify the person responsible for posting the recording,” said the statement.
Wrong. Wrong wrong wrong wrong wrong. The problem is the councilmembers, not the person who leaked the recording. Chances are, the person who made the surreptitious recording had attended similar meetings, heard similar slurs uttered, and decided they’d had enough of it. This is public service. This is not, as the LAPD claims, something to be investigated.
Unfortunately, California is not a one-party consent state. According to state law, everyone being recorded must consent to the recording, which makes this recording illegal. Whether or not prosecutors think this is worth prosecuting remains to be seen, but for now, the LAPD is applying a tentative jackboot to the First Amendment, choosing to punish protected expression just because it has a statute it can abuse to deter others from similarly recording disturbing conversations between public officials.
The LAPD made a choice here. It could have taken a report from (presumably) a councilmember caught on tape and tossed the paperwork into a filing cabinet where it would never be looked at again. Instead, it decided it would help powerful bigots identify the source of the recording — something that will likely result in both civil and criminal cases against this person. The PD didn’t need to come down on the side of evil. But that is what it has chosen to do with its discretion. And now, a very powerful force is aiding powerful people in their quest to punish the person who exposed them for who they are.
Filed Under: gil cedillo, kevin de leon, lapd, leaks, nury martinez, ron herrera, wiretapping