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LA City Council member resigns over racist comments

(LOS ANGELES) — Former Los Angeles City Council President Nury Martinez announced Wednesday she has resigned her seat, amid demands for her to step down after a recording emerged of her making racist and offensive comments about fellow council members.

In a lengthy statement, Martinez, who served on the council for the past nine years, thanked her staff, saying, “I’m sorry that we’re ending it this way. This is no reflection on you. I know you all will continue to do great work and fight for our district. I’ll be cheering you on.”

“While I take the time to look inwards and reflect, I ask that you give me space and privacy,” she said.

The resignation comes hours after the Los Angeles City Council adjourned its meeting before even starting after protesters demanded the resignations of Martinez and two other council members on the recording.

Protesters chanting in the LA City Council’s chambers caused repeated delays to the start of the meeting, chanting “no resignation, no meeting” and “step down or we shut down.”

A recording posted anonymously to Reddit over the weekend captured Martinez making allegedly racist and offensive comments about a fellow council member’s son. Two other city council members were also on the recording, with protesters calling on them to resign, as well.

The three council members on the recording were not in the chamber Wednesday, according to President Pro Tempore Mitch O’Farrell.

“For Los Angeles to heal, and for its City Council to govern, there must be accountability. The resignation of Councilmember Nury Martinez is the first, necessary step in that process,” O’Farrell said in a statement, while calling on the two other council members implicated in the scandal to resign, as well.

“There is no other way forward,” he said.

Martinez resigned from her role as city council president on Monday, but remained a member of the council. On Tuesday, she announced she was taking a leave of absence from her position.

O’Farrell tried to quiet protesters several times on Wednesday, even saying the council would open the floor for public comments, but protests continued. O’Farrell called two recesses at the beginning of the meeting to quiet protesters, without success. The meeting was scheduled to begin at 10 a.m. and was adjourned just over an hour later after the council was unable to conduct any business.

Protesters could be heard criticizing members of the council who were in the chamber for trying to continue the meeting.

In a recording of three Latino city council members, Martinez allegedly referred to white council member Mike Bonin’s son, who is Black, as an “accessory.” The recording was first posted to Reddit and later deleted. The Los Angeles Times reviewed the recording and confirmed it was authentic.

ABC News has not independently confirmed the authenticity of the recording.

In the recording, Martinez allegedly said Bonin’s young son behaved “parece changuito,” or “like a monkey.” In a statements released on Monday and Tuesday, Martinez apologized to her colleagues, Bonin and his family.

Bonin appeared at the beginning of the meeting via video call, telling the council he tested positive for COVID-19 and would be appearing remotely.

Protesters gathered at City Hall on Tuesday, calling for Martinez and the city council members in the recording to resign from their positions. protesters even made their way into the chamber where a council meeting was being held, disrupting it from starting while chanting “resign now” and “not one more day.”

Bonin condemned the statements and called for Martinez and the two other city council members allegedly speaking with her on the recording — Kevin de León and Gil Cedillo — to resign.

The California Department of Justice announced it was launching an investigation into the Los Angeles City Council redistricting process on Wednesday as well. The recording that captured the racist comments was made while the three were discussing redistricting, offering a rare look into the bitterness surrounding those decisions.

“The leaked audio has cast doubt on a cornerstone of our political processes for Los Angeles,” California Attorney General Rob Bonta said in a statement. “Given these unique circumstances, my office will investigate to gather the facts, work to determine the truth, and take action, as necessary, to ensure the fair application of our laws. We will endeavor to bring the truth to light as part of the sorely-needed work to restore confidence in the redistricting process for the people of our state.”

On Tuesday, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said President Joe Biden was “glad to see” Martinez’s resignation, and added that all participants in the conversation “should resign.”

Jean-Pierre did not appear to recognize that Martinez only resigned as president of the council, not as a member.

“The president is glad to see that one of the participants in that conversation has resigned but they all should,” Jean-Pierre said. “He believes that they all should resign. The language that was used and tolerated during that conversation was unacceptable, and it was appalling.”

ABC News’ Sarah Kolinovsky contributed to this report.

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