Ever since the October 21, 2021 audio conversation between four Latino leaders in Los Angeles was leaked, it has caused harm among the different communities that were affected by the remarks. Many times since the audio was leaked, activists and community organizers have made their voices heard in City Hall meetings to demand for the remaining two council members, Gil Cedillo and Kevin de León, to resign from their positions.
Over the weekend, de León became embroiled in a physical scuffle with local community activist Jason Reedy caught on video after a holiday event. De León claims he was defending himself after activists surrounded him to demand his resignation. An attorney representing Reedy told media that de León was the aggressor.
According to an ABC-7 article, the disruption of LA City Hall meetings has been ongoing and in a Nov. 1 meeting, Council President Paul Krekorian issued several warnings, noting that the meeting “cannot proceed” with disruptions. Protestors were forced to leave the meeting by police in riot gear. The article states that, “Krekorian had previously allowed the couple of dozen protesters to chant, shout and slap benches while the council members continued with the meeting, with council members wearing earphones to hear.”
There are many organizations in LA and other areas of the country with a focus on helping Latinos that have expressed their views on the whole scandal and those involved. Jose Barrera, who is a state director of the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) in California, mentioned that just like the protestors, the organization also wanted the four people involved in the audio conversation to be held accountable, when the news was first released.
LULAC is a civil rights organization founded in 1929 and has been advocating for the Latino/Hispanic community in areas such as health, education, housing, helping Latinos who have been wrongfully accused, and more.
Barrera said the organization had a huge focus on Latino health, especially during the peak of the pandemic. “Really pushing the narrative, like how do we help Latinos who are in trouble right now and then to get them the resources that they need,” Barrera said.
The organization has a membership office in Texas and a California office in Los Angeles. Additionally, its national permanent office is located in Washington, D.C., where a majority of its activism takes place.
For more information on the League of United Latin American Citizens and if you want to become a member of the organization to help Latinos improve in all aspects of life, you can visit their website.
CALÓ NEWS interviewed Jose Barrera to further discuss how communities who were harmed by the scandal can heal, what is crucial for the LA City Council to focus on that can help Latinos, whether Latinos have appropriate representation on the LA City Council, and more.
Responses have been edited for clarity and brevity.
JOSE BARRERA, 27, LONG BEACH, STATE DIRECTOR OF LEAGUE OF UNITED LATIN AMERICAN CITIZENS IN CALIFORNIA, HE/HIM, LATINO/MEXICANO
WHAT NEEDS TO BE DONE TO HEAL THE WOUNDS AND HOW LONG WILL IT TAKE?
First and foremost, there needs to be a shift in perspective because the Latino community was quick to react to what was happening. Even Latinos themselves, and similar to my organization, called out the three perpetrators of this, asking them to resign. It starts with accountability and accountability has already been a step that’s been taking place. The next step is to ensure that the accountability’s actually being followed through. The wounds that we’re discussing we’re already in a healing process, but we cannot fully heal until every perpetrator of this has been removed from office. Part of the healing would also incorporate having Latino elected officials replace these individuals who are more understanding. More in line with what is actually right and are also understanding that they’re not racist and that they are actually pushing for anti-racism in their rhetoric and are pushing for the interest of the community, not just these narratives that create more division rather than unification.
And so we see that. We see that because Cedillo, one of those perpetrators, had lost his election, so he was already gonna be replaced by a new councilwoman. We saw that Martinez had stepped down and resigned her position. The one that’s left over is de León.
And so that poses a whole new question because now de León is still on the council. That’s still costing harm to the community. That’s still costing this conversation around, well, what is going on? And Kevin goes on the media explaining that he is the only one that could represent the community and that without him, there’s no representation.
I completely disagree. We have elected leaders and leaders who are Latino, who understand the issues of the Latino community that do live in that district, and are ready to take that step. I don’t wanna mention their names right off the top of right here, but people can make a good educated guess as to who those leaders would be, that might be having statewide office already, or might be local leaders within the respected community. So there are people who are able and capable of representing and so I do think that the next step is for de Leon to step down.
WHAT ARE THE FIRST THREE STEPS TO BE TAKEN TO HEAL RELATIONSHIPS WITH GROUPS WHO WERE DEMEANED BY MARTINEZ AND CREW AND WHY?
I did mention making sure that those perpetrators are out of office. I don’t know where they’re gonna end up. I don’t know if they’re gonna stay in their position, but they need to be out of office because those relationships have already been diminished. Step two is to put in office those elected Latinos who can represent the community appropriately and can foster and build those unification dialogues.
The last big step once we have those elected officials appointed, in the form of accountability, is to have ethics training within our respected communities. The leaders of the Black/Brown, Asian/Pacific Islander communities all have to come together and lead strong ethics training for our newly-elected leaders, not just in the city council, but across the board to make sure that we’re fostering a good brother and sisterhood when it comes to these relationships.
WHAT ARE THE THREE BIGGEST ISSUES THAT NEED TO BE FOCUSED ON BY CITY HALL TO HELP LATINOS IN EVERY PART OF THE CITY AND WHY?
Representation has always been an important factor. City Hall is diverse. We have members from every community that’s being represented. One thing that City Hall could do better is take into account the Latino constituents, and being that we are almost 50% of the community and we’re not really represented in City Hall at 50% because that would mean that we have at least seven or eight City Council members representing each one of these City Council [districts]. There needs to be a strong Latino liaison for each council member and for our City Council members to really represent that. That could be adopted across the board. It shouldn’t just be a Latino liaison, but there should be liaisons for other communities that understand the needs and the diversity that comes with it.
WHAT CAN BE DONE ABOUT EACH, AND WHY?
It starts with having an open-door policy and community engagement and that’s really where it begins. You don’t really start addressing the issues until you start hearing about them and then still until you get the community involved.
DO LATINOS HAVE APPROPRIATE REPRESENTATION ON THE LA CITY COUNCIL, WHY OR WHY NOT?
I guess this is the topic of the debate because that’s what got [Martinez] and the rest of the crew in trouble because they were discussing Latino representation and redistricting.
One thing that they said that stood out was the level of representation, comparative to the levels of population of the Latino community. We’re not equally represented based on our population. So that means that there needs to be more turnout and we need to elect the right people that could represent if we’re truly trying to go based off our demographics.
In short, no. But it doesn’t mean that other elected leaders cannot represent appropriately, they also need to make sure that they are actively aware of their community and the community’s needs.
WHAT NEEDS TO BE DONE TO CORRECT OR SUSTAIN THAT?
We need to make sure that we have liaisons and take into account the communities that are being represented.
WHEN IT COMES TO REPRESENTATION IN CITY GOVERNMENT AND PROTECTING THE RIGHTS OF LATINOS, WHAT IS THE MOST IMPORTANT MESSAGE YOU WOULD LIKE TO SEND TO CALÓ NEWS READERS?
When it comes to protecting the rights of Latinos is we need to turn out to vote. Latinos, we have such potential. They keep calling us a sleeping giant and we’re continuing to stay sleeping. And at the moment we realize that once we unify ourselves and lend our voices and vote, we’re gonna be able to make ripple effects and truly change politics across the nation.