The Los Angeles Police Department has served search warrants as part of a criminal investigation to discover who taped a racist conversation between three members of the City Council and the head of a powerful labor union.
The covert recording made a year ago just surfaced last month and contained racist remarks against black, Asian, and white people. It led to the resignation of Council President Nury Martinez and Ron Herrera, the president of the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor.
After the initial furor died down, LAPD Chief Michel Moore announced that he was opening an investigation into the source of the tape.
California has strict laws about recording conversations that occur in a private setting or over the phone. All parties must consent before taping can begin, and any violation can have civil or criminal penalties. This does not apply to comments made in public.
Participants in the conversation said they did not give consent to the recording.
Several search warrants were served this month in an effort to find out who created the recording. Targets include Reddit and other social media companies, along with cellphone records, the Los Angeles Times reported.
The warrants are focusing on communications over the past few weeks, and additional warrants could be served as the investigation progresses, the LA Times reported.
The recording first surfaced on Reddit and was then published last month by a local news outlet that uploaded the indoor conversation between Martinez, Herrera, and Councilmembers Kevin de Leon and Gil Cedillo. The group was bemoaning the loss of power by Latino leaders from the previous census and discussed ways to regain control.
The remarks were primarily focused on the black community, which appeared to gain influence. Martinez and de Leon commented on the black son of a white councilmember, calling him a monkey and a prop from the Civil War era. Other disparaging remarks were made against white and Asian people as the groups discussed ways to gerrymander their districts.
As the recording went viral, it caught the attention of President Joe Biden and members of Congress, who demanded the resignation of the participants. Leading members of the Los Angeles black community also joined the chorus, expressing outrage at a press conference.
“I was more hurt and devastated that the most powerful Latino leaders in the city, that I’ve known and worked with over the years and considered them allies, viewed black people in a negative sense,” civil rights leader Najee Ali told the Washington Examiner. “For them to make racist comments, including calling a black child a monkey, was devastating.”
So far, de Leon and Cedillo have refused to step down, and a new council president has been chosen.