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LA masks up as hyper-contagious Delta variant surges at warp speed

“The extreme vulnerability of people who are not vaccinated, which will account for infections, hospitalizations, and, ultimately, deaths”

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Photo Credit: County of Los Angeles

LOS ANGELES – The County of Los Angeles is now positioned on the front lines of the national battle to contain the hyper-contagious Delta variant of the coronavirus. As cases and numbers explode in the United States, the decision by the County’s health officials to order residents to mask-up even if fully vaccinated indoors may prove to be the national blueprint for combatting transmission of the disease.

The Health Department’s new order takes effect at 11:59 p.m. Saturday everywhere in Los Angeles County, except Pasadena. (Pasadena and Long Beach have their own health departments; Long Beach followed L.A. County with its own mask order, but Pasadena still only recommends everyone mask up.)

Nearly two weeks after the Fourth of July holiday and one month after the June 15 reopening, transmission of COVID-19 in L.A. County has rapidly increased to very concerning levels. This is due to the presence of the more infectious Delta variant and the intermingling of unmasked individuals where vaccination status is unknown. 

The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health confirmed 1,827 new cases of COVID-19 Saturday afternoon; a four-fold increase from the 457 cases seen on July 4 and an eight-fold increase from the 210 cases seen on June 15.

Saturday’s daily test positivity rate is 3.7%.  On July 4, test positivity was near 1.5% and June 15, test positivity was near 0.5%.

Not every official however is onboard, on Friday Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva, publicly announced; “Forcing the vaccinated and those who already contracted COVID-19 to wear masks indoors is not backed by science and contradicts the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines.”

The Sheriff went on to add, “The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health (DPH) has authority to enforce the order, but the underfunded/defunded Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department will not expend our limited resources and instead ask for voluntary compliance.  We encourage the DPH to work collaboratively with the Board of Supervisors and law enforcement to establish mandates that are both achievable and supported by science.”

Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex-Villanueva with wife Vivian
(Blade photo by Karen Ocamb)

The Sheriff’s announcement prompted reaction from West Hollywood City Mayor Lindsey Horvath who tweeted, “Last I checked, he’s not a scientist, nor is he a medical or healthcare professional. Let’s leave those decisions to the experts while we all do our part to take care of each other & get through this thing together.”

On Friday during the regularly scheduled White House COVID-19 Response Team and Public Health Officials briefing Dr. Rochelle P. Walensky, the head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, told reporters;

“CDC reported more than 33,000 new cases of COVID-19. [Thursday]  Our seven-day average is about 26,300 cases per day, and this represents an increase of nearly 70 percent from the prior seven-day average, she said. “There is a clear message that is coming through: This is becoming a pandemic of the unvaccinated.  We are seeing outbreaks of cases in parts of the country that have low vaccination coverage because unvaccinated people are at risk.  And communities that are fully vaccinated are generally faring well,” she added.

The CDC head also noted “the good news is that if you are fully vaccinated, you are protected against severe COVID, hospitalization, and death, and are even protected against the known variants — including the Delta variant — circulating in the country” But she cautioned, “If you are not vaccinated, you remain at risk.  And our biggest concern is that we are going to continue to see preventable cases, hospitalizations, and, sadly, deaths among the unvaccinated.”

The chief medical advisor to President Joe Biden, Dr. Anthony Fauci told the briefing; “We are dealing with a formidable variant in the Delta variant, as reflected by the data that Dr. Walensky told you, and the extreme vulnerability of people who are not vaccinated, which will account for infections, hospitalizations, and, ultimately, deaths.
 
And so the message loud and clear that we need to reiterate is that these vaccines continue to strong protection against SARS-CoV-2, including the Delta variant.  And so — why it’s so important for yourself, your family, and your community to get vaccinated.”

Biden administration officials in the effort to get the remaining population vaccinated are also combating misinformation about the vaccines and COVID-19 spread even among those fully vaccinated in what the U.S. Surgeon General, Vice Admiral Vivek Hallegere Murthy warned is “a serious threat to public health,” as the Biden administration grows increasingly concerned about misleading claims about coronavirus vaccines.

The President addressed those concerns in a question posed as he was departing the White House Friday afternoon. When asked by NBC News Chief White House Correspondent Peter Alexander, “What’s your message to platforms like Facebook regarding COVID misinformation?” The president responded saying “They’re killing people.”

“The only pandemic we have is among the unvaccinated, and that’s — they’re killing people,” he added.

A spokesperson for Facebook angrily deflected the President’s remarks in a media statement saying in part, “More than 3.3 million Americans have also used our vaccine finder tool to find out where and how to get a vaccine. The facts show that Facebook is helping save lives. Period.”

U.S. Surgeon General, Vice Admiral Vivek Murthy (Screenshot via C-SPAN)

Indirectly taking aim at social media giant Facebook, the Surgeon General had told reporters Thursday, “Now, health misinformation didn’t start with COVID-19. What’s different now though is the speed and scale at which health misinformation is spreading. Modern technology companies have enabled misinformation to poison our information environment with little accountability to their users. They’ve allowed people who intentionally spread misinformation — what we call “disinformation” — to have extraordinary reach,” he said.
 
“They’ve designed product features, such as “Like” buttons, that reward us for sharing emotionally-charged content, not accurate content. And their algorithms tend to give us more of what we click on, pulling us deeper and deeper into a well of misinformation,” Murthy added.

In a series of phone calls, public health officials at local, state, and federal levels told the Blade that with the onslaught of the Delta variant, Americans need to be more vigilant- especially as Americans are traveling more and headed out to favored holiday or even local activities.

An official for the CDC, who is knowledgeable but not authorized to speak publicly, acknowledged that there seemed to be a generalized perception that a person being fully vaccinated is immune which is worrisome as the official reiterated Dr. Fauci’s public statement Friday that the bottom line continues to be very simple: “While fully vaccinated individuals have a high degree of protection against serious illness from COVID-19, including the Delta variant.” The official went on to note that a fully vaccinated person can be infected asymptomatic and be a source of transmission especially the Delta variant.

When asked about the health order in Los Angeles to order masks indoors even if fully vaccinated the CDC official said that erring on the side of caution in the face of the lightening spread of the Delta variant was not only prudent but would ultimately save lives.

As LA County prepares to have Angelenos mask-up again, debate also peppers discussions on social media and elsewhere over the issue of breakthrough COVID-19 cases. The CDC defines breakthrough to any presumed infection by SARS-CoV-2 (that is, any positive coronavirus test) if it’s detected more than two weeks after someone receives the final dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.

Media reports on a series of breakthrough COVID-19 cases in Provincetown, Massachusetts, a popular Cape Cod holiday destination especially in the LGBTQ community, suggests that the CDC and health department’s information on degree of illness experienced being milder than would be the case if unvaccinated, is backed by the science and data.

According to a spokesperson for the Barnstable County Department of Health, which covers all of the Cape including Provincetown, there have been breakthrough documented cases among residents, especially on the Provincetown island. In a statement released earlier in the week health department officials noted;

Cases of COVID-19 were confirmed in Provincetown, in consultation with the Massachusetts Department of Public Health. The positive cases were identified in individuals presenting with mild respiratory symptoms and were tested for COVID-19.

Overwhelmingly, the affected individuals have been fully vaccinated for COVID-19. The moderate intensity of symptoms indicates that the vaccines are working as predicted. Provincetown has among the highest vaccination rates in the Commonwealth, with 114% of the eligible population age 12 and older in Provincetown having been fully vaccinated.

Health officials expect to continue to see a low level of positive cases through the summer in a community such as Provincetown with a seasonal population of approximately 60,000. As we enter a new phase of living with the virus, vaccination remains our strongest defense in preventing serious illness, hospitalization, and death from COVID-19.”

Dr. Amesh Adalja, a senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security and a specialist in infectious diseases, explained that while breakthrough cases are going to occur, all cases would be decreased if everyone just got the vaccine already.

Perhaps most important, mini outbreaks like this one do nothing to dent the clear reality that the vaccines are safe and effective.

“These people somehow believe that COVID is going to magically disappear,” he told The Daily Beast. “We are going to be having COVID cases ten years from now. And breakthrough cases will occur no matter what.”

Los Angeles entrepreneurial executive Brian Pendleton, a private pilot, had flown his plane to the Cape to spend the July 4 holiday weekend at Provincetown along with his partner. Halfway through his holiday there he experienced symptoms including headaches, congestions, he told the Blade this week. Upon returning to Los Angeles he was tested for COVID-19 and initially received a negative result. But he says after a PCR test he was tested positive.

Courtesy of Brian Pendleton

Pendleton said that his partner also tested positive and later discovered that his partner’s 70 something parents had also tested positive. All of them have been vaccinated for the disease, Pendleton noting that he received his second dose of Moderna at LA’s mass vaccination site at Dodger stadium in April.

Los Angeles County Health Officer Dr. Muntu Davis acknowledged that a percentage of vaccinated people will be affected by that the numbers are miniscule in comparison to those who remain unvaccinated and are at much greater exposure to hospitalization and dying from the disease.

Speaking about the new mask mandate, Davis said that it applies to everyone, including vaccinated people. That’s because he and other public health officials want to make masking a universal practice, to ensure everyone who needs to is doing it.

“I don’t think in general that self-attestation is actually good and there may be some people who are unvaccinated and don’t want to make that known,” Davis said in announcing the revised rules Thursday. “That just puts others at risk.”

Groups who are exempt from the rules remain unchanged from earlier in the pandemic: children under 2 and anyone who can’t safely wear a mask.

The main push now Davis and other officials are urging, is to get as many Angelenos vaccinated as possible. As of this week, 61% of county residents age 16 and older are fully vaccinated, and more than 5 million people total.

Officials want to achieve a vaccination rate of at least 80% to reach herd immunity, which means even unvaccinated people are protected from the virus’ uncontrolled spread. The date the county is expected to get to that number has been repeatedly pushed back, and now it’s not expected to come before fall.

“We continue to see fewer folks than we’d like to see getting their first dose of vaccine, week to week,” Davis said. “As there is currently substantial community transmission of COVID-19 here in L.A. County and in our nation, that urgency to get more people vaccinated remains high.”

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Los Angeles

Trans remembrance vigil held at LA LGBT Center

“We refuse to let violence rob us of the possibility to gather, to love each other, and to dream together in solidarity”

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LA Blade Photo by Simha Haddad

HOLLYWOOD – A Trans Remembrance Vigil was held at the Los Angeles LGBT Center on Monday, November 21st.

Candles and white, pink, and lavender flowers mounted on tiers draped by a trans flag adorned the center stage. A large monitor served as the focal point of the evening above the memorial display. 

The Trans Chorus of Los Angeles started the ceremony with an acapella performance. Following the song of hope and redemption, opening remarks were given at the pulpit by the Anti-violence project manager for the LGBT center, Mariana Morroquin, and representatives from the Trans Wellness Center, Bienstar Human Services, Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles, Friends Community Center, APAIT, and [email protected] 

Trans Chorus of Los Angeles (LA Blade Photo by Simha Haddad)

“I think it is very important to acknowledge our partners,” said Morroquin, somberly addressing the seated audience of about one hundred and fifty. “We know that hate is real. A lot of us have seen hate pretty close. We are very grateful to have you. We open our arms to receive your love and your support. The way we support each other is by providing jobs, providing spaces for us, and providing opportunities. Because hate is out there. We need this space. We need to welcome everyone. I want you to keep that in your heart. And tomorrow, when we get back to work, let us open our hearts and our minds. Don’t make decisions for us. Invite us to those tables. We know what we need. We’ve been doing this forever. We are going to keep fighting because this is what we do.” 

She then added, “We refuse to let violence rob us of the possibility to gather, to love each other, and to dream together in solidarity. We gather because we must remember what is worth fighting for. For now, we commemorate. We tell the stories of the ones we lost. For tonight, that will be enough.” 

One by one, members of the audience approached the pulpit to read the names and stories of a multitude of trans people whose deaths were the tragic result of hate crimes. The photos, names, and ages of the victims were displayed on the center-stage monitor. 

“My name is Nikai David,” said one speaker, the photo of a pale, curly-haired young lady displayed behind them. “I am a model and social media influencer who aspired one day to own my own clothing boutique. I had just celebrated my birthday a week before I was shot in Oakland California, on December 4th, 202. I was thirty-three years old.” 

Stories of these deaths included shootings by assailants, police, and family members, brutal beatings, and stabbings. The bodies of these victims were found in their homes, in garbage cans, and on streets where they were left, still dying, among other locations. 

The final name read was Daniel David Aston, who died in the recent Club Q mass shooting.  This year, TDOR came on the heels of the senseless massacre in Colorado Springs that left five members of the LGBTQ+ community dead and 25 injured. 

Reverend Valerie Spencer gave an impassioned closing speech, first inviting the audience to take several deep breaths in unison. 

Reverend Valerie Spencer (LA Blade Photo by Simha Haddad)

“We will mourn our family, our siblings,” said Reverend Spencer,  “but we are not having our primary focus on the violent conclusion of their life. We are choosing to see them and know them and celebrate them in the full context of their living. For they were fierce and powerful people.”

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Los Angeles

Karen Bass speaks to Los Angeles for first time as mayor-elect

With her daughter at her side, the mayor-elect spoke of her background & love for the city of LA She addressed issues including homelessness

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Karen Bass speaks to LA for the 1st time as mayor-elect (Screenshot/YouTube KABC 7)

LOS ANGELES – Rep. Karen Bass, (D-Calif.) addressed the City of Los Angeles for the first time as mayor-elect since she was declared winner Wednesday and her opponent billionaire real estate magnate Rick Caruso conceded in a press conference.

With her daughter at her side, the mayor-elect spoke of her background and love for the city of Los Angeles. She addressed issues including homelessness and economic hardship promising that her administration would work hard to get things done for the city.

Her primary focus she said when she takes office in December is to declare a state of emergency and execute actions on the homeless crisis that has enveloped Los Angeles.

KABC 7: Karen Bass to address city of Los Angeles for the 1st time as mayor-elect:

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Los Angeles

Beloved North Hollywood bookstore suffers arson attack

The Iliad Bookshop has been a fixture in North Hollywood for 35 years, the fire is currently under investigation by LAFD arson investigators

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The Iliad Bookshop/Instagram

LOS ANGELES – The Iliad Bookshop, located 5400 Cahuenga at the corner of Cahuenga and Chandler Blvds. in North Hollywood, was the target of an alleged arson attack at around 11 p.m. this past Thursday evening.

LA Fire firefighters responded to the blaze in front of the rear entrance which was fully engulfed after an unknown person or persons stacked up books and items left out by the store.

In interviews with KCBS2 LA, KABC7, and other media outlets, the bookshop’s owner Daniel Weinstein, said that a flyer, which he categorised as “terroristic,” was left at the scene of the blaze. The damage to the building was primarily to the entrance area with noticeable scorch marks, there was smoke damage inside as well. Weinstein added that the store’s iconic two live-in cats, Zeus and Apollo, were not harmed.

There was no information as to the extent of the damages to the store’s inventory.

In a GoFundMe started by the bookshop to repair and recover from the attack, Weinstein wrote:

“We were very lucky: neighbors saw the flames and flagged down a passing firetruck; had the firefighters arrived mere moments later, the entire store would probably have gone up. As it is, we suffered heavy damage to the main entry. The doors (which are metal) are still functional, but will need to be either replaced or fixed. We lost lighting fixtures, signage, and wood framing; we also suffered damage to the mural on the right side of the doors. Smoke filled the interior of the store, but we were able to rescue our two cats Zeus and Apollo and we’re hopeful that the damage to the books and fixtures is minimal.

We have high insurance deductibles so we need to cover the cost of replacing the exterior lights, sign, and trim, and touching up the mural. We expect the funds we’re looking for to be divided between repair costs and a mural artist.”

The Iliad Bookshop has been a fixture in the North Hollywood community for over 35 years. In a March 2019 profile article by Los Angeleno magazine writer Augustus Britton, the shoppe was described as “a cozy mix of librarial reverence and old lore magic. The walls are lined with literary memorabilia, most notably art by R. Crumb and posters of Bukowski alongside author obituaries from days past. An aged photograph showing Weinstein drowning in a pile of hardcovers hangs on the wall.”

Britton goes on to say: “Weinstein’s 10 employees are awesome. There are no better poetic words to describe them. One could say they all look like fictional characters. Grateful Dead fans, Philip K. Dick spies or Stendhal savants eating Chinese food at the counter while the shop’s spunky cats Zeus and Apollo — more nods to Greek mythology — climb over their shoulders.”

The fire is currently under investigation by LAFD arson investigators.

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Los Angeles

LAPD asking for public’s help finding missing teen in West LA

On Sunday, the LAPD issued a brief statement: “Andrew was located and reunited with his family.”

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UPDATED: Monday Nov. 7, 2022 from KABC 7.

A Los Angeles teen who went missing from his home on Halloween night has now returned safely and been reunited with his family, police said Sunday.

On Sunday, the LAPD issued a brief statement: “Andrew was located and reunited with his family.”

Andrew’s mother Anna posted on Facebook that Andrew came home Saturday. She said her son left home voluntarily because he was struggling with some mental-health issues. He then decided to come home on his own volition after about five days of sleeping on the street.

She expressed thanks to the public for providing support and said Andrew saw some of the missing-person flyers “and knows now that he is cared about by so many people.”

LOS ANGELES – The family of 18-year-old Andrew Jason Wright and the Los Angeles Police Department’s Missing Persons Unit are asking for the public’s help in locating him. Wright, an 18-year-old high-school senior, was last seen Monday around 6 p.m. near the 1700 block of Federal Avenue in West Los Angeles.

Wright is described as an 18-year-old male Asian with brown hair and brown eyes. He stands 5 feet 11 inches tall and weighs approximately 190 pounds. He was last seen wearing a black coat, maroon vest, gray pants, and black leather shoes.

His mother told KABC Eyewitness news that Wright has recently been suffering from depression and is extremely worried.

“He went on a walk around 6 p.m.” Anna Wright said. “He was supposed to go trick-or-treating with his little brother and sister at 7. And he never came back.”

Andrew’s father set up a search party where volunteers have been going around looking for him and passing out flyers.

If you have seen, or have any information regarding the whereabouts of Andrew Jason Wright, please contact Los Angeles Police Department, Missing Persons Unit, at (213) 996-1800.

During non-business hours or on weekends, calls should be directed to 1-877-LAPD-24-7 (877-527-3247). Anyone wishing to remain anonymous should call Crime Stoppers at 800-222-TIPS (800-222-8477).

Tipsters may also contact Crime Stoppers by texting to phone number 274637 (C-R-I-M-E-S on most Keypads) with a cell phone. All text messages should begin with the letters “LAPD.” Tipsters may also go to LAPDOnline.org, click on “webtips” and follow the prompts.

From KABC 7:

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Los Angeles

Trixie Mattel & LGBTQ youth celebrate 30th annual Models of Pride

The sponsor of this year’s Models of Pride was Glamazon L.A.—Amazon’s LGBTQ+ Affinity Group along with the Los Angeles City College

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Trixie Mattel accepts Model of Pride Leadership Award from LGBT Center CEO Joe Hollendoner (Photo Credit: LA LGBT Center)

LOS ANGELES — Amazon’s LGBTQ+ Affinity Group, Glamazon L.A., celebrated the 30th anniversary Models of Pride youth conference which drew hundreds of LGBTQ+ young people and allies—and special award-winner Trixie Mattel—to Los Angeles City College this past Saturday.

Attendees connected with peers, learned from role models, and got to celebrate with live performances and festivities. Parents and professionals had opportunities to learn from one another, build community, and gain tools to support the LGBTQ+ young people in their lives. 

The day’s highlights included drag queen, musician, entrepreneur, and television phenomenon Trixie Mattel accepting the first-ever Model of Pride Leadership Award.

“Right now, we are witnessing drag becoming weaponized by bad actors on the far right. They are banning Drag Queen Story Hours and trying to paint drag queens as enemies of family values,” Los Angeles LGBT Center CEO Joe Hollendoner said in his opening remarks. “This is a disturbing trend happening across America. What we at the Los Angeles LGBT Center know, and what Trixie Mattel’s prolific career embodies, is that drag is powerful. It is a pathway to unlocking new potential for freeing yourselves of the shackles of gender norms and for embracing the creativity that is waiting to be unleashed inside each and every one of you.”

“I didn’t grow up with much representation on television. At most, gay people on TV were allowed to be the snippy gay assistant or the funny makeup artist or, at best, the sexually ambiguous villain,” Mattel said in her acceptance speech. “I think the reason drag is so inspiring is because queer people are told to minimize everything. We’re told to be the friend or the supporting character. Drag makes us think, what if I’m the main character? I want you guys to know that you are all the main character.”

The Rolf/Uribe Models of Pride Leadership Award, given annually to youth and adults who have been models of pride to the LGBTQ community, was awarded to youth activist Alex Flores and PFLAG Los Angeles Vice President Steve Krantz.

The event was attended by more than 500 youth—including more middle schoolers and younger attendees than any previous Models of Pride—as well as more than 200 parents and professionals. Youth, parents, and professionals attended 100 workshops, with the offerings for youth ranging from “Rights of Youth in CA Public Schools” to “Drag Queen Story Hour.” Adult workshops ranged from “When Your Kid Transitions” to “Creating Affirming Spaces for Queer & Trans Elementary-Age Children.”

Entertainment highlights included performances by the Trans Chorus of Los Angeles, Gay Freedom Band of Los Angeles, The Voice finalist Hailey Mia, Mayhem Miller of RuPaul’s Drag Race, DJ Brynn Taylor, and Mike Xavier. Attendees also enjoyed a continental breakfast, a catered backyard BBQ lunch, and a dessert extravaganza.


Models of Pride is the world’s largest free conference for LGBTQ+ youth and their allies, filled with life-enriching workshops, entertainment, resources, and more to help attendees to build confidence and self-esteem while developing valuable life skills. The conference also offers family members, educators, professionals, and all other LGBTQ+ supporters the opportunity to attend the Parents and Professionals Institute at Models of Pride, which offers tailored workshops, a resource fair and celebratory reception.

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Los Angeles

LAPD announces criminal probe into leak of racist audio recording

According to Chief Moore it was Martinez, de León, Cedillo and Herrera who approached the LAPD last Friday and asked for an investigation

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Los Angeles Police Chief Michel Moore (Screenshot/YouTube LAPD)

LOS ANGELES – Speaking to reporters at a briefing Tuesday, Los Angeles Police Chief Michel Moore announced the department’s Major Crimes Division was overseeing an investigation into the source of the leaked racist recordings that has thrown the city government into crisis.

Moore acknowledged that the results would be presented to “the appropriate prosecuting agency” for possible criminal charges. “The department has initiated a criminal investigation into an allegation of eavesdropping,” Moore said.

Under California law, all parties must consent to the recording of a private conversation or phone call. Otherwise, the person who made the recording could face criminal and civil penalties.

Disclosure of the racist and homophobic audio recording earlier this month by The Los Angeles Times and Knock LA resulted in the resignation of Nury Martinez, first from her position as council president and then stepping down from her seat. Of the three others heard on the audio recording, powerful labor leader Ron Herrera, the now former president of the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor had offered his resignation which the federation’s executive board accepted.

City councilmembers Kevin de León and Gill Cedillo also heard on the recording have defied demands that they step down from their seats. Councilmember de León has been actively making the rounds of media outlets in the city offering apologies but refusing to consider stepping down, telling Univision’s León Krauze “No, I will not resign because there is a lot of work ahead,” he added; “I feel very bad, I feel very sorry for the damage, for the wounds that exist today in our communities.”

Calls for him and Cedillo to resign have included Los Angles Mayor Eric Garcetti, LA mayoral candidate, Rep. Karen Bass, California Governor Gavin Newsom, President Joe Biden and councilmember Mike Bonin, who along with his minor son, was a target of the racist and homophobic comments heard on the recording.

According to Chief Moore it was Martinez, de León, Cedillo and Herrera who approached the LAPD last Friday and asked for an investigation.

“This (request) was done by the principals – this wasn’t done through some intermediary or otherwise,” he added.

LAPD’s Major Crimes Division detectives have since interviewed the four involved parties about why they believe the recording was made “unlawfully and surreptitiously,” he said.

“We’ll also look, as far as possible, to understand how such a recording was made and identify, if possible, the person or persons responsible,” he said. No suspects have been identified, he added.

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