The recent altercation between City Council member Kevin de León and activist Jason Reedy marks another low in the aftermath of leaked recordings that have stoked racial tensions and exposed the worst of politics. The incident follows a separate demonstration at City Hall earlier this month where de León supporters were recorded chanting “all lives matter.”
These events reveal the growing urgency for accountability. Without a resignation, the most likely recourse will be through a recall by de León’s voters. Until then, we cannot fall prey to racial fracturing. In a city as diverse as Los Angeles, we must work tirelessly to find a way forward in solidarity.
No matter who is at fault, violence is never the answer as a form of political protest.
To quote Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., “We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence.”
We all saw what happened on Jan. 6 when supporters of Donald Trump, who falsely claimed the election was stolen, violently stormed the U.S. Capitol and attacked police. People died as a result. The congressional committee investigating the attack in Washington D.C. referred former President Donald Trump for four criminal charges.
Peaceful protest is acceptable. But protesters using disruptive tactics that lead to violence is never acceptable. To disrupt events where families and children are present is counterproductive and puts everyone at risk.
The racist, homophobic and bigoted comments made and or condoned by Nury Martínez, Gil Cedillo, de León and union leader Ron Herrera are not acceptable.
We supported the resignation of all four of these Latino leaders. But only Martínez and Herrera resigned. De León still refuses to resign. Cedillo waited out his term, which expired this month.
Cedillo, in a letter that we published at CALÓ NEWS, claimed he was a victim of cancel culture. He said he did nothing to warrant his resignation.
“But to resign for staying silent, with no look at who said what in that room, and ignoring the totality of my work and history? That is unacceptable,” Cedillo wrote.
To be fair, both de León and Cedillo have achieved major policy victories for Latino, immigrant, and other working class communities on issues of housing, immigration, environmental justice and more.
De León as President Pro-Tem of the California State Senate advocated for California to become the first sanctuary state in U.S. history. In 2014, his bill to prevent sexual assault on college campuses was the first law in the nation to require affirmative consent. In the City Council, he set a goal to create 25,000 new housing units for homeless people by 2025.
Cedillo also worked on housing issues. In a policy fight that spanned nearly a decade, Cedillo was the main architect of policy that now provides millions of undocumented immigrants the ability to drive with a license in California. During the pandemic, he helped 27 small businesses by turning restaurants into catering operations which served 160,000 hot meals to seniors. As state senator, Cedillo was the author of the California DREAM Act.
But there should be consequences when one fails to call out racism and bigotry. Remember they laughed or went along when a Black child was compared to a monkey and an accessory and mocked “short dark people” from Oaxaca, called them “indios” and “feos,” among other insults.
That’s not canceling. That is called accountability.
To quote MLK again: “In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”
Silence is complicity and we have to as a Latino community take racism and colorism more seriously. We have to call it out at every level. We have to call out racism towards other races and ethnicities and within our own communities.
In his letter, Cedillo does make a solid point that other politicians including San Francisco Mayor London Breed made unacceptable comments about Latinos. In October, she said a lot of Hondurans are drug dealers.
“There are unfortunately a lot of people who come from a particular country — from Honduras. And a lot of the people who are dealing that drug happen to be of that ethnicity,” Breed said referring to fentanyl.
She added, “It’s nothing ‘racial profile’ about this. We all know it. It’s the reality, it’s what you see, it’s what’s out there.”
But imagine if instead of Hondurans she had made such insults against Black people. There would have been a much greater uproar. There should not be a double standard.
Breed apologized, but that isn’t enough. She also should have resigned for such bigoted and xenophobic comments. Breed’s comments are no different than the false claims by Donald Trump when he launched his bid for the presidency.
“When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best… They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people,” Trump said in June 2015.
It’s not acceptable for Republicans or Democrats to make racist and bigoted comments. That should disqualify them from office as they can’t fairly represent all the people if they are bigots or condone bigotry. The difference is that many Republican voters silently condone or even cheer on the racist comments by their political leaders.
After the audio of the racist conversation was leaked in October, White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said this: “Here’s the difference between Democrats and Republicans: When a Democrat says something racist or antisemitic … we hold Democrats accountable. When a MAGA Republican says something racist and or antisemitic, they are embraced by cheering crowds and become celebrated and sought after.”
There is a democratic process and the voters who are disgusted with de León, or Breed, or any other politician can start a recall.
Already, a recall petition against de León has been approved by the Los Angeles city clerk. Organizers must collect 20,437 signatures from registered voters of the 14th District by March 31, according to the city clerk’s office. De León’s term runs until December 2024.
We support the recall as it is part of the democratic process. Let the voters of the 14th District decide if they want de León to represent them.