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The fallout lingers in Los Angeles over a racism scandal that has engulfed City Hall

A MARTINEZ, HOST:

Los Angeles, Calif., where a racism scandal has engulfed City Hall. Three council members were secretly recorded having a conversation filled with racist, anti-Black and anti-Indigenous language. And just a warning - we're going to hear some of that in this story. The council members are now facing calls to resign, including from President Biden. Here's NPR's Adrian Florido.

ADRIAN FLORIDO, BYLINE: The L.A. City Council president, two of her council colleagues and a union leader, all Latinos, were heard on the tape denigrating Black people. They also insulted Indigenous immigrants from Mexico, and they discussed ways to increase Latino political power in the city while taking it away from African Americans.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTERS: Let us in. Let us in. Let us in.

FLORIDO: Yesterday, a large crowd came to City Hall for the first scheduled council meeting since the tape emerged. For two hours, they berated the council and demanded that three members heard on the tape - President Nury Martinez, Kevin de Leon and Gil Cedillo - resign their council seats. Lori Condinus, a local Black activist, was appalled that Martinez had called a Black child a monkey on the recording.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

LORI CONDINUS: Nobody's child in this chamber is a monkey - nobody. That language - unacceptable, the anti-Blackness - unacceptable, the anti-immigrant language - unacceptable.

FLORIDO: Suyapa Maldonado said it had pained her to hear the Mexican American council president calling Indigenous Mexicans short, dark and ugly.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

SUYAPA MALDONADO: (Speaking Spanish).

FLORIDO: "I come from an Indigenous background," she shouted, "and we're being trampled on by the people we elected. They have to resign." Redeem Robinson, a local pastor, said he was insulted by parts of the recording in which the council members discussed ways to gain political power for Latinos while prying it away from Black people.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

REDEEM ROBINSON: We have people on this city council who are conspiring to disenfranchise Black voters. I've got a problem with that.

FLORIDO: None of the three council members recorded on the tape have resigned their seats, though few people in LA think their careers will survive this. The recording has unleashed a reckoning likely to alter the trajectory of LA politics forever, says Manuel Pastor, who directs the Equity Research Institute at the University of Southern California. The recording, he says, has been a deep affront to the values many Angelenos hold dear.

MANUEL PASTOR: This is a city that has prided itself on coalition building.

FLORIDO: Especially in the three decades since the police beating of Rodney King, a Black man, sparked the LA riots and exposed deep racial divisions in the city. Communities have worked hard to heal those wounds - and now this.

PASTOR: These Latino political leaders were thinking about enhancing Latino political voice by diminishing Black political prospects. That's really damaging to the trust that needs to be built between communities for successful struggles for social justice.

FLORIDO: Outside City Hall on Tuesday, Anthony Bryson, an activist, said the work to rebuild that trust will need to start again.

ANTHONY BRYSON: I hope that the Black and brown solidarity within the community can be strengthened, and we can see that the community members are here for each other, even if our leadership is not.

FLORIDO: On City Hall's steps, he was connecting with other local leaders who, he said, share that same goal. Adrian Florido, NPR News, Los Angeles. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Adrian Florido
Adrian Florido is a national correspondent for NPR covering race and identity in America.